In today's information age, data is doubling faster than ever before. Kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes - I can't keep up! The math curriculum in schools is much larger, yet schools are required to teach it with increasingly limited resources.
This leaves students and parents with the important task of supplementing education at home. Parents truly need to be partners in the learning process to ensure that our children stay ahead.
Parents, you do not need to be a mathematician to give your child the gift of mathematics. You only need to guide them on the right path. It is never too early or too late to start enjoying math at home with your child.
There is a strong focus on the value of reading to children when they are young - even babies. We hear over and over that "kids who are read to become better readers." Think about it: your child learned a whole new language by the time he or she turned two. Many children are reading words before they start school. Why not math? Math has its own unique language and the younger children are when they are when exposed to it, the more fluent they will be. Parents can help their children be better at math by just talking about it during their day. Your child will have more confidence in class and stay ahead if they have a sense of numbers before they reach school age.
And it is not too late to help an older child who has become discouraged with math. Many children have regained confidence in math after re-learning the basics. The challenge here is to help them discover the wonder of math after having had a bad experience.
Here are 10 ideas to inspire math interest in your home.
1. Use math during your day, include it in daily conversation.
Examples of math are easy to find once you start looking - in shopping, cooking, gardening, travel, sports, games and even art. The learning opportunities are endless. Use mathematical terms so that they become natural.
2. Combine reading, language and math. Check in your library for great books by such authors as David Schwartz and Stuart Murphy that combine math with fun stories. Talk about mathematical prefixes (like kilo, centi, iso, etc).
3. Find role models that enjoy math. Scientists, doctors, engineering, computer programmers and even professional athletes all use math. Encourage your child to ask friends and family how math is used in their careers. Read about great discoveries made by mathematicians such as Archimedes, Galileo, Newton and Einstein.
4. Combine math with play, games and activities. Build a cube out of blocks or polygons out of toothpicks. Bake a cake, make a family tree, cut out snowflakes, estimate the number of grains of sand at the beach or even write a letter to your aunt in binary code! Play endless games that help reinforce arithmetic skills and logical thinking like 31, snap, cribbage, chess and hearts. Better yet, make up your own games of chance using dice.
5. Look for patterns and sequences in our number system and in nature. Explore a numbers chart, play with shapes and spirals. Look at wallpaper, honeycombs and pinecones. Children of all ages are excited by interesting patterns such as Fibonacci numbers, the golden mean and Pascal's triangle.
6. Look for the wild, crazy and outrageous! What's a googol? Can you say Rhombicosidodecahedron, How many cubits to the mailbox? Can we eat pi? How many seconds old is grandma? How long would it take to drive to the moon and how much would mom weigh there?
7. Find science experiments and puzzles that use math and logic. Try building a pendulum, sundial, pulley or a pinhole camera. Explore challenging mazes, the bridges of Konigsberg, Napiers Bones, magic number tricks, the tower of Hanoi, tangrams, pentominoes, palindromes, nim games and recently popular Sudoku puzzles.
8. Teach thinking skills by letting your child make mathematical discoveries on their own. Ask them open-ended questions instead of teaching facts. Encourage him/her to ask questions as well. Ask: "Why do you think it does that? How did you solve the problem? What else could you try?"
9. Have your own "math kit" readily available so you can be ready to explore math at any given opportunity. The basics should include items you already have at home such as pencils, erasers, graph paper, a ruler and a measuring tape, scissors, calculator, scale and a wristwatch.
10. Take advantage of the Internet and your local library. There are amazing free resources out there that can teach your child everything they need to learn in math. Many math books are written especially for parents to provide inspiration, instruction and ideas. And the Internet now has endless math websites for all ages with online visual applications, videos, games and music.
Time spent exploring math with your child will help your child excel in other areas such as science, geography, music, art and problem solving. Our children can grow up to enjoy mathematics and we parents can learn along the way. Find an hour each week to share the wonders of mathematics with your child. Take some MATHemACTION in your own home.
Remember, if not for math, we might still think that the earth was flat like a pancake!