Some kids hate math early on. For others, a distaste for math seems to really develop in students during middle school. Usually, when they start taking difficult subjects like algebra and geometry. Since these are a lot more difficult than standard arithmetic, it comes as no surprise that the frustrations take shape here.
This was definitely the case for me. Although I taught math for several years and earned an MBA, math has never been my subject. In fact, I although I was gifted in reading, I was placed in remedial math classes in the 7th grade. Was I a terrible math student? No. However, I didn’t enjoy math and didn’t feel confident about it.
Why do students have so much trouble with math specifically? Is it simply the most difficult of all the subjects that schools teach? Possibly, but the best way to know for sure is to listen to what the students themselves say. Overwhelmingly, many of them point to the same things as being their downfall – boredom. They are not interested in math and never will be because they do not see the point in it. A good place to start, then, might be curing that boredom.
Here are 3 ways to help your kids think that math is fun.
Younger: Songs and Games
Kids younger than 10 do not generally have the patience to pay attention to non-stimulating material. While students in middle and high school are better equipped to learn from textbooks, smaller children need to be having fun to learn. This is why so many educational programs make use of songs and games to teach their students.
Songs are energizing, inclusive, and entertaining. Rather than passively absorb materials, kids get to sing along and enjoy themselves as they learn new things. The dopamine release that accompanies listening to music encourages kids to learn. This effect is especially powerful when it comes to information that would be otherwise lacking in stimulus, such as math. Rhythm and words can help kids remember processes, as well as memorize times tables.
Games serve a very similar purpose. Rewards stimulate dopamine production as well, and games provide an opportunity to reward students that perform well. In an effort to recreate the positive feeling, the children’s brains will be more inclined to reap the reward again. If, for example, the student that solves the most problems gets a piece of their favorite candy, they will try harder to solve those problems.
Online games are especially beneficial since they link technology and learning. ArgoPrep’s new K-8 program is a great tool to use when it comes to daily math.
These years are some of the hardest for students because their social skills are developing. Often times, the development of those skills take precedent to them over their schoolwork, and kids become more concerned with fitting in than they do with their academic performance. One of the ways they try to fit in is by being funny, because everyone loves to laugh, and everybody loves the person that can make them do it.
For example, the video game FortNite is very popular with kids in this age group. Incorporating the game’s themes and jokes is a great way to grab everyone’s attention. They will be laughing and might seem distracted, but they will want to complete the next set of problems to reveal the next joke you have incorporated into their worksheet.
Variety is key here. The same thing too many times becomes stale. Try to find a variety of things that kids this age enjoy and incorporate it into their learning and watch as their grades skyrocket.
Teens: Specific Interests
It is well-known that math surrounds us all. No matter what your child is interested in, you can be sure there is a math component to it. When they grow into teenagers, kids begin to explore and develop their passions, which presents an opportunity to show that math is fun.
Many boys this age love video games in general. Not many of them may know, however, that their games are built entirely using mathematical principles. If your child is one who loves video games and is interested in creating their own, now would be a perfect time to introduce them to coding and data science. These are rather specialized forms of math, but they will translate into better academic performance.
Sports is another thing many kids this age find that they enjoy. Sports are loaded with math, from physics to dietary science. Explaining these principles and encouraging your child to learn them will result in an increase in their performance at school. Even with my own children, I’ve found that just letting them know that the fun things they enjoy include math can make all the difference.
While math may seem challenging to students, it is even more challenging for parents to get their children to enjoy it. These tips outline ways to make the most notoriously dull school subject exciting. Follow them, and not only will your child’s grades go up, but their willingness to engage in math will increase as well.