How to teach math in an interesting way
Whether we shop at the mall and must calculate how much we will save with a 20% discount, or how much money we will have left when we pay all the utility bills, or if we are saving money for a summer or winter holiday, we need math throughout our life. This is why one of the main goals of primary education is to teach every person to read and do basic arithmetic. However, many children are afraid of math, they loathe it, and when they grow up, they try to steer clear of it.
According to some research, 17% of the population develops math anxiety, i.e. fear that prevents them from performing even the simplest arithmetic operations. The percentage of people who just hate math and have a negative attitude toward it is even higher. If we take into account all the applications of math in our everyday and professional life, and its absolute necessity, it is clear no parent wants their child to end up in this group. In addition, knowledge of math provides exciting and extremely well-paid jobs, which is why we need to help children develop a positive attitude toward this science and love of numbers from an early age.
What can you do as a parent?
Even when we grow up and have children of our own, some childhood monsters can still scare us. Maybe in your case it’s math? If so, it is time to overcome that fear, unless you want your child to inherit your negative attitude toward math.
The best way to help children master a subject such as mathematics that will be invaluable throughout their life is to teach them to love it. And that, above all, means that you must never speak negatively about it. Not even in jest. Many people who struggle with math often admit it with a smile. However, if you are one of them, your child may think that math is irrelevant and lose any motivation to master it.
So, cultivate your child’s love of math and create an environment where they will be encouraged to face it squarely. Praise them when they are doing well, encourage them when they hit a wall, reward them for success, and try to show them that math can be fun. One of the best ways to do it is to play fun math games with your child.
Math games you can play with your child
Math demands dedication, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. By playing interesting math games, you will pique your child’s interest in this important science, and who knows, you may even lose your own fear of it in the process. When it comes to elementary mathematics, fun games can play a crucial role and make the child fall in love with this science for life.
Use math when you go shopping
When you take your child to the supermarket, use math. Calculate how much a kilogram of apples costs, the total price of everything you bought, how much you saved on discounts, compare prices in different stores, etc. This way, they will understand how helpful math can be in everyday activities, and shopping will become more interesting. To make things even more interesting, you can give the child a small amount of money and tell them to decide what they want to purchase with it.
Teach your child evaluation
Making the right assessment is very important in the lives of adults, and math can be very helpful here. You can teach your child evaluation by telling them to calculate how many slices of pizza each family member will get, how many floors are left while riding the elevator, or how many stairs there are in your building.
Play shop at home
Choose different household items: old containers, pencils, toys and let your child set a price for each of them. You are the buyer, and your child is the seller. Choose items you want to buy and let your child tell you how much they cost, making sure that they correctly added up the prices, then give them a certain amount of money and ask them to calculate the change. To make the game even more interesting, pretend you don’t have enough money and ask them to recommend items within your budget.
Math classes in primary school that children love
Traditional math education is often monotonous, frightening and in most cases, it makes children loathe mathematics. In addition, it doesn’t develop problem-solving skills, intuition, critical thinking and creativity, but turns students into rote learners.
On the other hand, there are innovations in mathematics education that involve the application of educational technologies and that not only help children fall in love with this subject, but also help them develop important skills that will be invaluable in their continued education and professional careers. The instructional planning model may be crucial for the child’s attitude toward math.
Innovative teaching is focused on the WHY.
Structure is very important in mathematics education, and Eddie Woo, a math teacher and YouTuber who promotes math, uses an innovative principle to make this science more relatable and understandable to everyone. He starts from an idea, and develops a theory using pictures and charts. Instead of asking his students to do repetitive exercises, he encourages them to develop their intuition together with him.
Eddie always asks the key question in his math classes ‘Why?’, thus showing why math is important. Hence his followers and students often shout the word attributed to the ancient mathematician Archimedes: “Eureka!”. The principle that Eddie implements is an integral part of all innovative approaches to mathematics, because it helps students to adopt mathematical principles and formulas in a way that is understandable and acceptable to them.
Linking mathematical concepts with everyday situations familiar to students gives lessons spirit and meaning, as well as motivation to master them. When students understand all the ways in which math can help them in sports, nightlife, and shopping, they will perceive it as a useful tool, not a thing to be feared.
Math lessons inevitably involve difficulties, stress, and challenges, same as other school subjects your child has at school. These are all real situations your child will face at school. However, the teacher is the person who should help them overcome these difficulties, and mastering a new concept after a period of intense efforts and struggle has a positive effect on children and remains in their mind for the rest of their lives.
Math is often similar to mountain climbing: it can be hard, but the view from the top makes everything worthwhile. In addition, children love challenges, so we need to give them a chance to solve them creatively by proposing solutions, discussion, trial and error.
Not only can math be beautiful in itself, but it also enables people with the knowledge of it to achieve great things in the future. This is why it is important to introduce children to interesting and exciting occupations and jobs related to math: they can become engineers, programmers, video game developers. All these jobs, apart from being interesting, are also extremely well-paid.
Innovative teaching doesn’t solely rely on numbers, geometry and arithmetic, but enables children to understand deeper ideas and concepts that underlie numbers, connecting them with different non-mathematical contexts. This way, math becomes exciting and grows into a topic of everyday conversations between teachers, students and parents.
One of the ways in which inventive teachers who are not afraid of challenges can make mathematics more approachable and interesting for students is through numerous math games. Children have fun playing games and don’t feel stress which helps their brains become more open to learning. Just as there are different types of math problems, there are also different types of math games suitable for different types of learners.
Some of the most interesting educational math games used in teaching are:
- Video games. Teachers can use different video games and educational apps to teach math classes, such as Motion Math, Prodigy, Sudoku and Mathmateer to help students master the teaching material and develop the basic math skills. These are largely role-playing games where students compete in math duels. The great thing is that teachers can modify the questions so as to complement the teaching material. Better games support adaptive learning and personalized instruction allowing each student to work on their weak spots when it comes to math.
- Math bingo. Same as in real bingo, students get bingo cards with numbers. They also need blank paper for computing. Instead of drawing balls with numbers, students use arithmetic operations. For example, the teacher says 4 x 4, and students should calculate the result on their own and check if they have number 16 on their card.
- Measuring game. The teacher divides the class into smaller groups and gives each group a measuring tape. The task is to find 2 to 4 objects in the classroom and guess their length. The next step is to measure them using the measuring tape. The winner is the team whose estimation was closest to the mark. If they want to make the game more interesting, teachers can give students rulers instead of measuring tapes and ask them to convert the length of objects into millimeters.
Supplementary math classes
Of course, not all children struggle with math, some fall in love with it from the outset. Simply, such children are fascinated by numbers and arithmetic operations, and master them without difficulty. It is very important to give such children adequate challenges, so supplementary classes are a great solution.
Teachers organize these types of courses to prepare children for math competitions, enrollment in the desired schools, or just to practice math and deepen their love of it.
Thanks to supplementary classes, children organized in small groups can solve more advanced problems, and master innovative concepts at a faster pace than in regular math classes.
Remedial math classes, on the other hand, are organized for children who struggle with math. In these classes, children are also organized in small groups and the pace is adapted to their needs and abilities, and the goal is to help them catch up with other children. However, that shouldn’t be the only goal of remedial classes.
Namely, good teachers strive to instill a curiosity and love of math in their students. The reason why some students fall behind when it comes to math is often an irrational fear of it. Once the child overcomes this fear, they will develop a love of math, and curiosity that will inevitably result in improved performance. Remember: motivation is crucial in math education.