What’s the point of learning math? Why is it so important that kids are exposed to mathematical thinking? And what do parents and teachers need to know about learning real math? Keep on reading to find out.
But play is exactly what kids do best. It’s how they learn. And it’s what we need to allow them to do—both with their bodies on the physical playground and with their minds on the mathematical one. Many adults struggled with math as kids. Why? In many cases, it’s because their parents struggled with math. And why was that? Because their parents struggled with math. And so on. Which means it’s time to break the cycle.
Your child, or grandchild, or friend’s child, or student, or whoever it may be, does not need to struggle just because you did. Please don’t let your past struggles determine your child’s future struggles. Don’t say things like “I’m bad at math” or “I’m just not a math person” when talking to kids. When they hear such words they just hear that “math = pain,” and it gives them the easy excuse that “I too am bad at math.” But they aren’t bad at math. They’re bad at drills. And drills aren’t math. Math is the playground.
So let them play. And just like my daughter figuring out how to span that jungle gym chasm, let them work to get better at playing. Because even play requires work. Before children walk, they fall. But when our kids fall taking those initial shaky steps, we help them to their feet and we encourage them to keep trying. Eventually those steps lead them to the playground and to chasms like the one my daughter crossed a few days ago. So why is math any different? Why do we treat the mental playground differently than the physical one? I don’t honestly know, but I know that we shouldn’t. And I believe that if we change our attitude and encourage our children to play—both physically and mentally—we’ll help create the greatest generation of creative and critical thinkers the world has ever seen. Which is something we could use right about now.
That leaves us with one final but very important question: What does playing with math actually look like? What is the mathematical playground? The good news is it’s simply the world around you. Math is everywhere if you just stop and look. You can explore the patterns on sea shells. Play with tiles and shapes. Categorize objects in bizarre and creative ways. Do puzzles. Do origami. Study the patterns in music. Study the structure of trees. Paint. Knit. Create secret codes. Program computers. Be creative. And check out the many amazing resources on the web such as http://naturalmath.com and http://gdaymath.com that are there to help you, your kids, your grandkids, your students, and everybody else learn how to play with math. Because math is a playground…so go play!
OK, that's all the math we have time for.
Thanks again to everybody who has tuned in over the past seven years to hear what I’ve had to say. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned a ton along the way. Hopefully you’ve gotten as much out of it as I have (although I doubt that’s possible). If you want to follow along with me on my future adventures in life, you can always find me on Twitter.
For the last time, this is Jason Marshall with The Math Dude’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Make Math Easier. Thanks for reading, math fans.
Playground image from Shutterstock.