One of the popular words in both education and business today is STEM, short for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
In recent years, parents have been advised about the need to educate their children on STEM – no matter what career they want to pursue – in order to be competitive in the 21st-century global economy.
Mike Lefkowitz, a board member of the MIND Research Institute in California, United States, writes on mindresearch.org that STEM has exploded in recent years.
“But we still have a long way to go in raising the level of our education and student achievement in these areas to meet the increasing demand for qualified workers that companies and universities need in the information age,” he says.
Lefkowitz and many an expert argue that mathematics is one of the most important subjects that everyone should learn, as it forms the basis of every scientific, technological, and engineering development in a country. The experts add that a country cannot thrive without people with a solid mathematical foundation.
“A solid foundation in mathematics and science develops and improves the skills of hypothesizing, designing experiments and controls, analyzing data, recognizing patterns, seeking evidence, conclusions and proofs, solving problems and the search for absolute values, while being open to new information.
“Studying mathematics will not only produce more engineers and scientists but also more citizens who can learn and think creatively and critically, regardless of their field. Tomorrow’s workforce, in all areas, will be asking for it,” says Lefkowitz.
A study by Dr. Tanya Evans of Stanford University in the US also shows that students who solve math problems in their everyday lives have higher logic skills than those who don’t. Whether at home or at work, Evans says math can help a person perform efficiently.
Unfortunately, math is a subject that many students worldwide fear and try to avoid in school because of its perceived boredom and difficulty and in learning. With a plethora of formulas that are sometimes hard to remember, math is a subject that many students fail at school.
But it doesn’t have to be. Math can also be fun and easy, provided it’s taught in a fun way, experts say. Just because math sounds geeky doesn’t mean it should be taught in a geeky way.
So here are some tips to help math-averse kids like the subject
1. Incorporating Mathematics into Daily Activities
Robert Berry, professor of mathematics education at the Curry School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia, USA, advises incorporating mathematics into children’s daily activities.
“Cooking lends itself to math, for example, because following recipes call for thinking about proportions and the use of fractions. Talking about sports scores, time and prizes are other easy ways to help kids make concrete connections with math,” Berry tells theweek.com.
2. Talk to your child’s math teacher
Don’t wait for your child to struggle to figure out what to learn in math class, Berry advises.
He explains: “It’s also a good idea to talk to your child’s math teachers because while the content hasn’t changed significantly since today’s parents were in school, the way we teach that content has changed.
“Today, students are asked to represent their thinking using technology and manipulative means (objects that help explain mathematical concepts), and to explain their thinking, rather than (only)]giving an answer.
“There is more focus on ensuring that students understand what they are learning. So familiarize yourself with the curriculum and do not hesitate to ask questions or seek advice.” Berry says manipulations that can help kids improve math learning include color tiles, color cubes, and base 10 blocks. “Don’t tell your kids you don’t like math or you’re not good at math,” he adds. “All people are mathematicians. Maybe you haven’t had the right teacher yet.”
3. Play games with your kids
According to Berry, board games such as Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, and dice games can help children subitize (recognize quantities without counting) and parse numbers (showing how larger numbers are made up of smaller ones). The don adds that the informal skills children acquire through playing board games can help them develop math skills.
4. Don’t criticize your kids when they’re wrong
In math, “Everyone gets a lot of wrong answers,” math professor emerita Patricia Kenschaft, of Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA, writes at theweek.com.
“My students were always shocked when they noticed I made a mistake,” Kenschaft recalls. “They seem surprised I was happy when they noticed, but I taught them it’s important to accept when you’re wrong.” The don warns against criticizing children when they make mistakes, saying, “If your children correct you, say ‘Oh, thank you!'”
5. Don’t joke about math
Many adults usually brag about their dislike of maths in school. If you’re one of them, be careful not to pass that attitude on to your child, experts at greatschools.org warn.
They say, “It can cause math anxiety, which unfortunately is contagious. Help your child improve his attitude toward math by showing him that you are confident in performing routine tasks such as counting money, estimating the cost of a purchase, or calculate your tax return.
“You can also point out the importance of math in various professions, including architecture, medicine, fashion design, restaurant management, and computer programming. These small changes in the way you talk about math can make a difference and even get your child excited about the subject.” .”
6. Don’t underestimate your own or your children’s abilities
“Most parents can add and multiply, and that’s what you want to teach kids when they’re little,” emphasizes Kenschraft.
He adds: “In return, kids also want to tell you what they know – they’ll love teaching you math. Let them instruct you. Mathematics is the study of patterns and using patterns to solve problems – it’s not about the calculations themselves.
“People like patterns. It is this matter of good and evil that attracts people. So, when you pull your hair over a worksheet, remember her wise words: to enjoy math, you have to accept that you will make a lot of mistakes.”
7. Explore the web
Videos on sites such as YouTube and online games can be helpful in sparking your child’s interest in math, says Bukola Adeyemo, an educator and school owner from Lagos.
She says: “As society becomes more dependent on technology, parents and teachers must adapt to these changes to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st-century workplace.
“Actually, math boredom is the result of ‘old school’ teaching techniques. In this age, there are many sites, especially YouTube, where children can learn math in a fun way. There are also online games that help children solve math problems. Exposing the children to new technological tools can be beneficial.”
8. Measure everything
A maths expert at Cluey Learning, Australia, Karen McDaid, says understanding measurement and scaling can help children develop estimation skills. She says: “These simple activities are fun and easy for the whole family to participate in: compare the height of family members to introduce the measurement language (“Lucy is taller/taller/shorter/shorter than James”) and, for the older children, the standard units of measurement (“Brayden is smaller/larger than one meter”).
“Use blocks to measure items. Ask questions like how many blocks high is teddy? How many blocks is the car/doll/book?
“Discuss how horses are measured by hand and find out how many hands the table is long, how many hands Dad/Mum/Grandparents have. Compare their hand measurements with those of their older/younger siblings.
“Compare the capacity of different containers such as spoons, measuring jugs, and cups by filling them with water and see which holds more. Let your child figure out how many spoons of water it takes to fill one cup. Cooking with your child is the perfect opportunity to fill and measure.”
9. Use money
Learning about money arms kids with important skills for future life says, McDaid.
She says, “There are easy ways to teach your child about finance, whether it’s saving, spending, credit cards, taxes, or income.
“Encourage your child to save regularly. Whether it’s another plush toy or the latest gadget, they can save their pocket money to buy that special item they keep asking for. Help them calculate how long it will take to save and check their progress weekly.
“Encourage younger children to buy small items in the store and find out if they have the correct change.
“Older children can look for money references in real-life situations. Go shopping with your child and look at the price per gram for a product. For example, which coffee product is the best buy?
“Look at percentage increases and decreases in products. Encourage your child to mentally calculate 10 percent and 20 percent of an amount. Then they can see that 20 percent is double 10 percent.
“The more your child can see that math is all around them, the more they can relate to it — helping them understand and apply it better every day.”
10. Mathematics is not about speed
Several stories have been heard of math geniuses who can calculate crazy problems in their heads. It’s glamorous but unusual. For the rest of many kids, it’s not about speed, says Nina Garcia of sleepshouldbeeasy.com.
She says, “We shouldn’t even praise speed as if it’s a skill we want to teach kids. Mastering logic is more important than solving problems quickly. Don’t force your child to finish a worksheet or problem within a set amount of time. This only makes them more anxious.
“If you do have to work counterclockwise, let your child solve as many problems as possible within that time frame. If they have to finish it all day (like homework), make more time in your day so they can.” “Just as a writer can take a long time to…
crafting words, children should also play with math and logic’, adds Garcia. ,,