I don’t know about you but I hated maths. In high school, I graduated above average in the higher level maths class. But oh how I hated it. I didn’t get it and when I did, I didn’t understand why I needed to know it.
I succeeded primarily by memorisation. There was certainly no joy there and not a lot of understanding either. I’ve since forgot all but the basics and all that is left is a general dislike for maths.
However, being a homeschooling Mum, I don’t want project any of that onto my kids. I want them to continue to learn maths in ways that excite them and are meaningful to them.
Most of us are familiar with ‘school maths’ and it’s the only model we know. Consequently it seems unlikely that you could get all of that simply through living life. Maths learned from life is certainly a contrast to that which is typically taught in schools.
Real life maths is learned through a slow discovery of how numbers work. Through, for example, encountering percentages several times and piecing together the information. Like many of us have taught ourselves what a new word means over time. You encounter it and decipher it in context and as you encounter it a second, third, maybe fourth time – it becomes clear what it means and is something you can confidently use in your own vocabulary.
But how? How will a child encounter percentages or algebra, you ask (I know I did!) Well, maths is everywhere and relates to almost everything else in life. If you live a full life, you will learn all the maths you need merely because you need it. It’s inescapable.
Sometimes it’s simply realising these abstract and sometimes ‘complex’ ideas are for a reason. For example, algebra is just figuring out what you don’t know from what you do know. Some people will love it and get really interested and want to learn more advanced maths and do all sorts of interesting things with it. Most will not.
So how am I encouraging and facilitating that at this stage?
Well, through play primarily. Watching Cam play with Spielgaben, I observe so many incidental explorations of mathematical concepts. Even at this age he’s exploring and making connections about many processes: including patterns, symmetry, fractions, probability, multiplication and division.
The best way, in my opinion (particularly early on) is for children to learn maths contextually and in ways relevant to their lives. How can I divide these lollies up so that it’s fair for my friends and I? How much do I need if I halve this recipe?
Furthermore, the most powerful way we as parents can help with maths is to speak the ‘maths language’ out loud. Add up money out loud or figure out the remaining days to a holiday without using paper. Talk about numbers in contextual ways and discuss how we manipulate them in day to day life.
All of this forms the foundation for their mathematical exploration later in life. And hopefully their experiences with maths will continue to be positive.
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