Math has been a trial to many a homeschool mother. It’s supposed to be so good for you, and as important to future success as vegetables are to health. But many kids dislike it, and it often becomes a battle. If this is where you are (as I was), here are some things to think about.
As a mother of picky toddlers I came across a healthy-kids program that urged parents to make their kids’ veggies more “a-peeling,” and I took this to heart. Preparing and serving vegetables with a little creativity – letting the kids sprinkle on different toppings, for example – can make the difference between “Blah” and “Yeah!” Similarly, instead of just handing your child a page of boring math problems, applying a little creative energy to the situation can vastly improve your child’s math experience. One day, have your child work the problems with unusual counters like cars or marbles. Another day, write problems on cards, tape them around the house, and let your child race against the clock. Get away from the written-problem format altogether as you play games that exercise math skills.
If your child only sees peas and carrots on his plate day after day, however, no matter how creatively they are served, he will start to resent them. This is where you introduce baby corn, cherry tomatoes, sautéed fresh green beans, and sweet potato french fries. Math is a field (or vegetable garden) that is broad, deep, and beautiful. Introduce your child to the fascinating concepts that have entertained human minds for millennia: number theory, logic, probability, geometry, and simple calculus concepts. Look for patterns in polygonal numbers. Play around with Pascal’s triangle. Test your brain power with some famous puzzles, and learn about the famous folks who worked on them. There is math all around us, from the seeds in a sunflower, to ocean waves, to the night sky. None of these things take more than basic math skills, at least at the beginner level, and having a glimpse into where you can go with math adds meaning and purpose to learning the fundamentals.
The introduction to What is Calculus About, by W.W. Sawyer, states: “In mathematics a certain surprising thing happens again and again. A person poses a simple question, a question so simple that it seems no useful result can come from answering it. And yet it turns out that the answer opens the door to all kinds of interesting developments, and gives great power to the person who understands it.” Playing around with simple, non-traditional math topics can give your child non-traditional insight into mathematics. Introducing your child to amazing concepts in a no-pressure way will improve their chance of viewing math as the fascinating art and science that it is.
Jennifer Georgia has homeschooled her four children since birth; the two oldest are now pursuing degrees in the field of science. A list of favorite math resources is available on her blog at georgiatimes.blogspot.com. Jennifer will be sharing many more math tips at the 2010 LDSEHE Home Education Conference in Buena Vista, Virginia on May 27-28. For more information, please visit www.ldsehe.org.