Guest article written by: Corinne Jacob
Math has been an important part of kids’ early education for a long time now. While most traditional reactions to math are of fear and horror, there have been numerous attempts at changing the negative perception that many kids have towards this important subject. The mushrooming of various math games online is evidence of the growing popularity of unconventional methods to encourage kids to practice math. However, the biggest challenge that many adults face is busting the myths that surround this subject.
Here are 3 pernicious myths that we need to bust to help kids realize their true math potential.
1. I’m missing the math gene
‘I’m no good at math” is a perfectly acceptable statement in our society, usually made without embarrassment and sometimes with pride in one’s lack of basic math skills. Many of us perceive math as a ‘tough’ subject that only a few ‘genius’ students can master. If you’re missing the ‘math gene’ you might as well give up on math at once because no amount of hard work is going to get you those ‘As.’ And then you have a much-discussed Developmental Science article by a group of researchers at Johns Hopkins that suggests that math ability could be genetic. This piece of research and others like it has strengthened a common myth about math being an ‘inborn’ skill. The truth, however, is that while math ability is genetic to some extent, working hard, being prepared, and self-confidence are more or just as important factors in determining ability.
Tip – You can help your child master basic concepts with cool math games, math worksheets, activities and learning games that make the subject engaging instead of tedious.
2. I don’t need to do mental math – I have calculators!
In 1989, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommended scrapping “tedious pencil-and-paper computations” and that students be allowed to use calculators at all times. But many experienced math educators say that the use of calculators by students in elementary grades prevents kids from learning basic math facts, identifying and understanding them, and hampers the development of logical thinking. The study of mathematics builds upon previously established and learnt facts. A child who relies on calculators for basic multiplication and division will have great difficulty in learning advanced topics like factoring, fractions, etc. If your child is in the lower grades, it would be wiser to restrict the use of calculators until he is able to add, subtract, multiply and divide with paper and pencil. This helps in building number sense and makes your child proficient at mental math.
Tip – Allow your child to use the calculator occasionally for special school projects, to check homework, to explore new concepts, or simply to have some fun with numbers.
3. Math is all about cramming rules, facts and formulae
A child who doesn’t understand a particular math concept might be tempted to simply memorize the steps and cram the answer. In the long run, this is one of the most self-defeating ways of learning math. This is because each concept builds upon a previous one and if your child doesn’t have that basic foundation in place, no amount of cramming is going to help. Conceptual understanding is the only effective way of learning math. For instance, memorizing 6×6 = 36 isn’t as effective as learning that 6×6 is 6 groups of 6. There’s another reason why cramming should be avoided – the total amount of time you spend memorizing a topic is far more than you would spend in trying to understand it. When your child is trying to solve a math problem, ask him if he’s simply applying a series of crammed procedures or if he understands how each procedure works.
Tip – You can help your child achieve conceptual clarity in math either by having a good look at the subject yourself or by hiring a good tutor who can help.
Success in math is possible when you have an open mind, willingness to work hard and the belief that you can do math.
Author Bio: Corinne Jacob is a preschool teacher and mom to 2 teenagers, with a degree in early childhood education. She believes that technology can transform the way kids learn and is always on the lookout for educational games and other fun ways of teaching kids math!