“Maths is the hidden secret to understanding the world," says Roger Antonsen, a logician & mathematician at the University of Oslo.
Yet, for many of us, the word ‘maths’ conjures up some pretty negative emotions. Mathematics, just like language and reading, is a foundational skill and one that is critical to success in various paths of life. Despite its great usefulness however, it has earned the reputation of a monster.
Students have been known to plateau in maths achievements around grade four. Such a plateau results in students not only scoring poorly in the subject but also experiencing roadblocks ahead in fields such as engineering and science (Micheal Orosco, professor at The University of Kansas).
So what stands in the way of a child’s mathematical advancement? To begin with, they must learn to understand what a maths problem is asking them to do. For this, a thorough command over language and reading is essential. After all, Maths too is a reading problem!
The next hurdle of course, is that Maths poses a ‘terror of numbers’ for children. So, to turn boring and scary mathematics to fun math-e-MAGIC, we invited maths addicts and authors Aditi and Sudhir Singhal to share their secret recipe for helping children conquer their maths monsters!
‘Maths’ is a word that brings out mixed emotions in all of us. Love it or hate it, one cannot ignore Maths. A part of our daily life where our day starts with calculating the minutes left to catch the school bus to checking out Google Maps to know the time it will take to reach office, it is a tool that simplifies our life at every step. We all know its importance and want our kids to know the same. We want them to excel in maths as many consider it a step in the ladder of success. It needs practice to master a concept in Maths, but just being after a child and telling them to keep practicing puts them off the subject and makes it a forced task.
Today, lots of students suffer from “Mathophobia”. Not just teachers, parents also play an important role in taking away this phobia of maths from a child’s mind.
As educationists and parents of two young boys, we hereby share a few tried and tested techniques that you can apply to erase the anxiety surrounding maths and make maths education meaningful by taking it beyond memorising formulas, thus developing a strong foundation.
Associating Maths with our daily life
Making our children aware of the involvement of maths in our day to day life is very important. A trip to a departmental store is a great source of learning for a child. Estimating/calculating the amount to be paid while keeping in mind various discounts and offers going on at the store involves various maths concepts like addition, percentages, decimals, etc. Involving children in the planning of a birthday party or any other family event is also a great way of teaching them calculations. You can give them a budget which they can utilise to arrange various things for their party, thus calculating the amount at each step. This also makes them realise the value of money and how it should be spent wisely. Involving your children while baking a cake teaches them about measurement, but in an enjoyable way.
Bingo is a game loved by everyone. Associating maths calculations with the numbers on a ticket makes it all the more exciting. For example, instead of calling out number ‘24’ directly, it can be announced in various combinations such as 3×8 or 20+4 or 48/2. This will make the game more interesting, and it will also act as a learning tool along with being a source of entertainment. Similarly, other games can also be played involving mathematical variations so as to add more fun to the learning.
Learning fast calculation techniques
Over the years, while interacting with teachers, students and parents, we have found that the key difference between those who have a good understanding of the subject and those who don’t, is the way they deal with numbers. Dependence on procedures and memory holds the latter group back. For example, 31 – 6 is easier to calculate when we think of it as 30 – 5, but less confident students stick to counting backwards from 31. We should teach children to break numbers apart and rearrange them as needed. This training helps to develop number sense. Children should also be motivated to explore fast ancient calculation techniques, such as Vedic Maths. For example there is a special technique in vedic maths to calculate squares of numbers, as given below:
To find 962, follow the steps given, to find the answer in two parts, Left Hand Side (LHS) and Right Hand Side (RHS).
Difference of 96 from 100 is 4
LHS = 96 – 4 = 92 RHS = 42 = 16
So, 962 = 9216.
*This technique is applicable when finding squares of numbers which are close to 10, 100, 1000, and so on.
Not just textbooks
Although there are many textbooks available in the market with a number of practice questions on a single topic, the child gets bored of these sums very quickly due to the repetitive nature of the content. Instead of depending only on those books, parents should try their own version of the questions, thereby making the situation more real. For example, asking a child to calculate the length of the wall paper needed to cover up one wall of his room will interest him more than solving problems given on the topic ‘area’ in the book.
Try and incorporate various maths facts into your conversations with your children so as to augment their interest. For example, while watching a race one can talk about why there are different starting points for participants on an oval race track. Such questions create curiosity in the child and help them explore more about maths. We may not necessarily know the answers to all such questions, but encouraging the child to explore them helps them look at maths in a different light than just as a subject.
Refrain from transferring your belief system
You as parents might have feared maths when you were in school but the way you learnt maths in school is very different from the way it is being taught today. Things that we found difficult like algebra or trigonometry are now made simple using innovative visual aids and software.
Too much emphasis on maths or asking them to put extra effort into maths because it seemed difficult to you, might instead instill a fear in the child’s mind. Even a simple problem will seem huge and put off the child just because you gave them the impression that maths is complicated. We should choose our words and actions carefully so as to encourage a love of maths in our child instead of fear.
Dr. Aditi Singhal and Dr. Sudhir Singhal, founders of Dynamic Minds Group, an organization working for making education as edutainment.
They both are mathematics educators, international memory trainers, authors and motivational speakers. They have to their credit the Guinness World Record for teaching the largest Maths Class.
Dr. Aditi has also been awarded – “The Best Memory Trainer” by the India Book of Records and has 3 records in The Limca Book of Records for memory and the fastest calculation. She is one of the experts in a TV programme specially for youth – ‘Hum Honge Kamyaab’, where value-based solutions to youth related problems are given.
They have authored 4 bestselling books:
- “How to Memorize Anything”,
- “How to Become a Human Calculator”,
- “How to be a Mathemagician” – a flip book and
- “The Ultimate Memory Handbook for Students”
Their Mantra is: ‘ADD SMART WORK TO YOUR HARD WORK’ ®
YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/aditisinghal
Their latest book The Ultimate Memory Handbook for Students was published by Penguin Random House India in December, 2018.