Maths is everywhere — from simple sums like “how many five cent coins will the shopkeeper give me if he is returning 45 cents in change?”, to “how do we split a $235 bill among four diners?” to “can I buy my three-child family a family membership to the Zoo for $150?” (The answers, by the way, are 9, $58.75 apiece and no.)
And if some pupils are asked to pick a Most Boring Subject in school, odds are, maths is likely to be a top contender. Says Lin Yingxuan, associate lecturer with the Marshall Cavendish Institute, “It is a subject that many adults often shy away from and the danger is that parents might subtly be sending this same message to their children.
“‘My child is not good at Maths, he takes after me, and I am not good at Maths either,’ [is what you’ll hear]. Often, there is the perceived notion that it is alright for their child to be weak because the ability to do maths is genetically inherent.”
This is a myth. Learning to do maths is like learning to play music, anyone can learn to play the piano — of course, some play better than others and few are good enough to be able to make a living from it. But with some encouragement, tons of practice and some parental involvement to keep the child interested, your child could play well enough — or do maths fairly easily.
"Learning to do maths is like learning to play music, anyone can learn to play the piano…"
Lin says, “Remember, the best way to get your child motivated to learn mathematics is to be involved in the learning process. Often, learning together with them not only helps you form a bond, but also helps you understand them better, especially when they have to solve difficult problem sums.”
To help your child navigate maths with ease, Lin suggests five tips you can try:
1) Real-life applications
Mathematic principles are working in everything from time, money, art, music, to even nutrition. The next time you go to the supermarket, bring along a pencil and paper to teach your child how to add up the cost of your groceries. If you’re using cash to pay for your items, you may want to teach your child how to count the notes and coins to hand over to the cashier.
If your child loves food, get him to make cookies. By weighing the ingredients and following instructions, he’ll be able to learn about mass, volume and time. As parents, you would need to emphasise that being accurate in measuring the ingredients and getting the baking time right is essential in making a good batch of cookies! After the cookies are done baking, it’s time to share the goodies equally. What a good way to teach division!
For four more ways to develop your kid’s maths brain, click next…
2) Play games
For younger children, a game of Snakes & Ladders is an excellent way to teach counting. Games can also help your child learn how to solve problems and apply reasoning skills. Clue, Battleship and Mastermind are some games that your child can play to learn to systematically reduce possibilities and arrive at the correct combination of events or coordinates. Otherwise, spend your weekend playing a simple game of Bingo or Monopoly with them and watch them getting excited (over maths and hopefully, not bankrupt)!
3) Creative uses
Mathematics is also present in the Arts. It could range from the shapes in the mosaic patterns on the floor, to symmetrical architectural features of buildings, to geometrical concepts behind paper origami and even the Fibonacci sequence (spirals) in Nautilus shells. If your child learns music, use time signature to help them see musical patterns. If he loves to draw, challenge him to use three or more shapes to create a picture — which you can then frame. From there, it’s an easy step to geometry…
4) Make use of technology
Information sharing is much easier when you introduce Maths apps, YouTube videos and interactive websites. Present division concepts to junior via YouTube: Videos include “The Doorbell Rang”, from Pat Hutchins or “Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi” by Cindy Neuschwander. Engaging Maths apps like King of Math 1 and 2 allows your child to practise mental calculations while Math Duel is a two-player game that allows you to challenge your child. Interactive websites such as Mathplayground.com provide useful questions through games that allow your child to compete with his friends. Other comprehensive online portals such as MC Online have tutorials and practice sessions for students who need the extra help.
5) Offer positive feedback
Your child’s self-esteem will get a boost when you give positive feedback and offer encouragement. Allow your child to make mistakes when he is learning; after all, each child not only learns at a different pace, each is good at different things.
Perseverance and resilience are two very important traits of successful kids. These qualities will help them as they deal with problems of increasing difficulty as they grow older. Incorporate these values from young and this should help them ease their maths learning.
Contribution by Lin Yingxuan, associate lecturer, Marshall Cavendish Institute, a Professional Development Institute by Marshall Cavendish Education.