Teaching your child to love mathematics

By Sitangshu Ghoshal

5/10/2012 1:02:22 PM -

A smart brain is not God gifted; it is a result of good training in the initial stages of life. Mathematics is the most feared and unloved subject in school for many. However, some changes in the teaching method will encourage your child to enjoy learning it and you can help your child to change his perception. Ask any child what he thinks of mathematics and the most likely typical answers will be boring, difficult, or both. The fear of anything to do with numbers is ingrained in not just children but also adults. However, the fault lies not with this beautiful subject, but with the conventional teaching methods and curriculum used to impart it. Children get motivated towards playing compared to studying; this is absolutely justified as well since it keeps them healthy which in turn helps them in studying. Naturally they are more interested in what they like. If the data is presented as interesting as in playing, they will be interested in that also. The usual techniques, treatment to sharpen the brain and memory consist Simplification of the data, Classification of the data, Attractive presentation of the data, Association of data with personal significance, repeated practice and recall etc. Try to relate teaching with the interest of children.

Mathematics and the real world
The common misconception that people have about mathematics is that most of its concepts do not have direct, day-to-day applications. Nothing could be further from the truth. Adding, subtraction, multiplication, etc. have direct uses in our day-to-day lives. We also make use of more abstract mathematical concepts in our day-to-day lives but perhaps unknowingly.

Take, for example, a typical day in most people's lives. You wake up in the morning may be with the assistance of an alarm bell. So it's the date, the calendar that comes first. The solar calendar is 365 days, when the lunar calendar is 354 days. The solar calendar measures the time taken by the earth to rotate around the sun (approximately 365 and 1/4 days) divided up into 4 seasons based on the equinoxes (the times of year when the night and day are of equal duration) and the solstices (the point when the sun is in the highest or lowest point in the sky). The lunar calendar is based on the amount of time it takes the moon to move through all of its phases, from new moon to new moon (approximately 28 days). The modern Gregorian calendar is actually a hybrid of both of these. Our year is 365 days approximately, divided up into months based (loosely) off the 28 day lunar cycle. Since calendars are a way of tracking days, each calendar year naturally has a whole number of days. In a solar calendar with 12 months, the average month length is 365.24 ÷ 12 = 30.44 days. Months in these types of calendars, as most of us will be familiar with from the Gregorian, are either 30 or 31 days long (not counting February, the freak month). If a solar calendar has 13 months then these are usually 28 days long each, and occasionally 29, to maintain an average length of 365.24 ÷ 13 = 28.09 days. The main convenience of a 13-month solar calendar is that almost all months are exactly equal to 4 × 7-day weeks. However discussing further on this topic over here will be beyond the scope but what I mean is it's mathematics since we wake up in the morning.

Next watch the weather forecasts, which have been calculated using complex equations. Seasons are the most important cycle on Earth, since they are directly related to plant growth and hence food production, something that is of interest to almost all living creatures on the planet. Before the Gregorian calendar was adopted for official business farmers of many countries used a solar calendar alongside the traditional luni-solar one. This second calendar was aligned with the seasons, and divided the year into 24 equal parts called solar terms. It existed primarily for the benefit of farmers, who need to be able to track progress through the seasonal cycle so they know when to sow, when to reap, and so on.

Now let's come to breakfast table. You use fractions to divide fruits among the members of your family. When someone offers you a lottery ticket, you calculate the probability of winning. You probably avoid smoking because statistics suggest that smoking causes cancer. In cricket, you often refer to the batting averages and run rate. So you see, mathematics governs our life in more ways than we could imagine. The trick is to help your child understand the relationship between complex mathematics concepts and the world around him. Make mathematics part of your child's daily life.

Make learning interesting
Once the great Albert Einstein was four years old and sick in bed. To overcome his boredom, his father gifted him a magnetic compass. Young Albert was fascinated by the fact that no matter which way he turned the compass, the needle would point in the same direction. He nurtured this fascination for natural phenomena later in life to become the world's greatest physicist.

Similarly, you can provoke your child's imagination and curiosity - which is never in short supply at that age - by using everyday objects to explain mathematics. Periodically focus of attention shifts between left and right hemisphere of brain. When a child starts imagining some thing actually the center of attention get shifted to the other lobe of brain. At the outset from the appearance or body language of the child, it seems that he has got defocused, which is mis-conceptually interpreted as lack of concentration. So we always try our best by saying 'Look at me' or throwing a small piece of chalk at him to grab his attention. In general we are not allowing our children to imagine. But that is an effectual means as well. There is a famous saying 'Mathematics is made up of 50 percent formulas, 50 percent proofs and 50 percent imagination'

Try this quiz. A farmer has to cross a river with his goat, dog and a bundle of grass. The boat can carry the farmer with only one more item in a trip. The goat if left with the grass will eat it. If the dog and the goat are left behind, the dog will bite the goat. What is the minimum number of crossings required to transfer all four to the other side?

The answer is Seven. Farmer goes with goat, leaves it there, and comes back. Then he goes with dog, leaves it, and comes with goat. Then he goes with grass, leaves it, and comes back. Finally he goes with goat.

Disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Sitangshu Ghoshal.