When most people think about math, their minds automatically flutter to images of complex algorithms, intricate equations, and sprawling graphs. It’s almost as if the subject is viewed as an abstract, separate entity that exists in a universe distinctly detached from our everyday life. However, this is not true at all! Math is not just a subject; it’s a universal language, a fundamental underpinning of our day-to-day activities. Everything from kitchen measurements to financial planning, travel times to artistic designs, the concepts of math are woven into the fabric of our lives.
Research published in Networks: An Online Journal for Teacher Research found that when teachers provide students an opportunity to connect their lives by letting them write their experience in a math journal, the students’ understanding and application of math concepts improved. As a parent, you might be perplexed about how to encourage your child to see the relevance of math in their lives. How can you move that abstract dimension into their tangible reality and foster a love for this subject? In this article, I’ll delve into practical methods that can bridge this gap, providing a more comprehensive understanding of math in real-life contexts, thus helping to nurture a fascination and love for this subject.
Bring Math into Everyday Conversations
One of the most straightforward yet effective ways to make your child see the prominence of math in daily life is by injecting math concepts into your everyday conversations. Consider, for an example, baking cookies with your child – a simple, fun activity. Here, you can effortlessly introduce the concept of fractions as you measure ingredients. During shopping trips, talk about percentages when you come across a sale.
A piece of research conducted by the University of Chicago shows that the more parents talk about numbers, the more children understand number concepts. The kind of language parents use around their children has a large effect on how children perceive and understand math concepts. When you consciously use math language to describe what’s around you and your child, your child will understand the math is indeed connected to real life.
Practical Math Activities at Home
In addition to conversations, there are many activities you can engage your child in within the comfort of your home. These activities can expose them to different math concepts without making it seem like a chore. Examples include:
- Devise a shopping list with your child and calculate the total cost of the items. You can use flyers of your local grocery stores to choose items that your family needs or items that are discounted to create an ideal shopping list. This activity not only introduces them to addition but also teaches them the value of money.
- Figure out travel times to different locations the next time your family plans a road trip. Create a detailed plan mapping out which route to take and how much time it takes to get to the destination. This activity can help your child understand the concept of speed and distance in a fun and engaging manner.
- Involve your child in planning the next garage sale. Together with your child, figure out the pricing, sales goal, and how to increase the number of visitors and sales. During the garage sale, let your child tally up the sales. This weekend activity could help your child comprehend basic business principles, such as profit, loss, and budgeting.
Letting your child participate in a real-world activity helps your child develop intuitive understanding of math concepts. In addition, active engagement in the activity helps your child nurture critical thinking, decision-making, and communication skills.
Games as an Educational Tool
In the digital age that we’re living in, online games and applications can be very appealing to children and can make learning math entertaining. Interactive apps like Prodigy and Math Playground are specially designed to make children apply mathematical concepts in a fun-filled, game-like setting. Also, traditional board games such as Monopoly or Scrabble, which require counting, strategizing, and calculating, can make math more lively and exciting.
Relating Math to Your Child’s Interests
My favorite method to incorporate math into daily activities is to tie it accurately to the child’s hobbies or interests. If your child adores loves sports such as baseball, there are tons of baseball statistics that you and your child can calculate and analyze together, from number of hits to ERA. If your child is passionate about art, you can illustrate how geometry can be applied in crafting a painting or a sketch.
Children are much more receptive to learning math if it is related to their area of interest and especially if it’s presented in an informal or casual setting. If your child doesn’t ordinarily like math or is experiencing anxiety toward math, you can gently incorporate informal math when you and your child are engaging in your child’s favorite activity. This way, your child can associate fun activity with math, potentially reducing their dislike or anxiety toward math.
Using Real-World Examples in Homework
When assisting your child with their math homework, try to transform abstract problems into real-world situations. For instance, if the problem involves the addition or subtraction of numbers, correlate it to adding or subtracting their favorite sweets or toys. A study published in IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education found that teachers’ ability to connect math to real life problems were directly associated with students’ interest level in math.
A technique I’ve found to be both interesting and enjoyable for students involves encouraging them to create their own problems based on their personal interests. For instance, if you’re assisting your child with a topic such as “Percent increase or decrease”, allow them to formulate a unique question related to the topic. You might be surprised to discover that your child comes up with a question you’ve never before considered, inspired by their own unique interests. Then, you can answer the question with your child and even create additional follow-up questions based on the question they came up with in the beginning. This child-centered method fosters creativity, a quality many children appreciate and enjoy.
To conclude, many, if not all, aspects of mathematics can be related back to our lives in a meaningful and impactful way. All it takes is an element of creativity, some patience, and a dash of enthusiasm. Because the opportunities to utilize math in real-life situations are virtually limitless. These moments of learning won’t just enhance your child’s numeracy skills, but also lay a foundation for a lifelong love for math. So bring on those numbers and equations, make every moment a teaching moment – for learning math is far more intriguing than it seems! Happy teaching!
Richard Zhang, M.Ed., is an educator and a software developer with a Masters degree in education from University of Toronto and an immense passion for education and learning. Until the pandemic, Richard owned an award-winning learning centre in Toronto. For 15 years, he has taught and mentored hundreds of elementary, middle school, and high school students succeed in academics. He is also an app developer specializing in web and mobile application in educational and business sectors.