Director of education and outreach at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Mary Mulcahy, said we use maths every day as an integral part of our lives — whether we realise it or not. Maths is critical in our day-to-day lives and many jobs rely on it. Facebook and Instagram for instance rely on mathematical algorithms. Further, Ms Mulcahy said, “Studies have also shown that people with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills are more flexible and creative and will be able to take advantage of a changing workplace and new jobs.” Developing skills in mathematics and problem solving is important for all students, regardless of their career aspirations.
Some students find it difficult to learn mathematics skills. Mathematics requires plenty of brain power, practise and revision to master it. For some, it can be overwhelmingly challenging or frustratingly boring. As a result, helping your child love maths can appear to be an ambitious goal. How can you change your child’s attitude towards a subject which at its most basic, is just about solving problems?
Here are five tips to help your child love maths:
1. Demonstrate a positive attitude towards mathematics
It’s easy for parents to fall into the tendency of telling their kids that “maths is hard,” especially as they relive their own experiences as students struggling with equations and formulas. Consequently, their children can pick up on this attitude and go through their school years lacking confidence to apply themselves to mathematical problem-solving.
As parents, demonstrating a fun and positive attitude regardless of your experience can go a long way in helping your child to develop an appreciation, if not love, of maths.
2. Turn it into a game
A great way to improve your child’s skills and make maths enjoyable, is to turn it into a game. Children today are fortunate to have access to technology, that allows them to access digital games, smartphone apps and websites to develop their maths skills in a fun and engaging way. Apps such as Mathletics, make learning maths engaging and topical through fun games and challenges. The best part is that parents can easily monitor their child’s progress.
Of course, there are even simpler ways to turn maths into a game, particularly for early learners. You can cook together, having your child help count, measure and weigh ingredients. Ask them to make certain shapes with lego or stack blocks. Board games are also an excellent way to teach your child about counting and simple addition.
3. Show the relevance of maths to everyday life
The reality is we are surrounded by maths every day in the form of money, measurement and time. Show your child the relevance and the purpose of maths and how necessary it is to the real world. In particular, help them understand the importance of maths in the activities they enjoy. For example, if your son enjoys music, help him connect maths to music through counting beats. Or if he is a sports fan, help him to see the maths behind sports through team stats, player averages and win-loss records.
4. Make it a competition
Another way to help your child love maths is by making it a competition. There are many ways to do this, for example having a pop quiz where the overall winner gets a prize. Mathletics Live also allows your child to compete in timed games against other children throughout Australia in real time.
Healthy competition, in general, is good for children. According to child development experts, competitive activities help them to develop important skills they’ll use well into adulthood, such as taking turns, developing empathy and resilience and showing tenacity.
5. Create a reward system
Children love getting rewarded, and a desirable incentive will inspire them. When your child succeeds or progresses in their maths skills, celebrate the small wins. Rewards don’t necessarily have to be expensive – they can be as simple as an extra hour of television at night or a special snack. However, make sure that rewards are attached to a specific goal or accomplishment, and not used inconsistently or inappropriately.
Helping children to enjoy maths is important in ensuring they understand it and welcome the challenge of problem-solving. By removing the anxiety or fear about maths, children can become confident learners able to apply their maths skills to higher learning and everyday life in general.
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