Are you fearfully attached to Math?

What kind of feelings do you have about Math? Scared, hatred, phobia, nightmares, excited, puzzled, love? I mostly freak out at the word Math and all sorts of phobia creep in, making me jolt off my chair. People frequently say that they hate it, it stresses them out or makes them feel imprudent. But, is Math really attached to emotions or feelings?

Parents often worry about teaching Math to their children. In fact, there is so much math anxiety out there that parents permit their child not to take Math when they have a choice. They search for a curriculum which avoids Math or has an ‘easy math’ curriculum, resulting in a never ending search. This states that learning Math is attached to one’s feelings and we are nurturing a Math phobic society. Why do we let our child throw the books and pencils in frustration of ‘I hate Math?’ ‘Math is the hardest subject to learn in comparison to others, only a few can be good at it’ is the worst belief of all.

Unfortunately, there is no ‘easy-Math’ or ‘no-Math’ curriculum for you to stumble upon. That is because, no matter what Math program you use, there are beliefs and practices common in our society that work against you being able to instill “Math comfort” in your child instead of math anxiety. Remembering that Math difficulties have emotional roots, the question is how to avoid planting the seeds that eventually grow into negative Math experiences and emotional blockages.

The Math we’re talking about is not harder than speaking a language, reading, writing, or painting, or most of the other things our children learn. We make it difficult! We teach the abstract material to children in the developmental stage. We break it into small pieces that offer no use. Math classes or programs move too quickly and do not allow time for full understanding. We use methods that promote memorization of algorithms over problem solving and emphasize on right answers than understanding the procedure. We teach that there is just one right way to solve any problem.

The intellectual cognition which is behind the pattern-recognition builds an impression of what it should look like, before judging the reality. Lack of creative thinking in Mathematics can result in students who have memorized all the techniques, but cannot imagine where, how, or why to use them in real life. Creative moments are motivated by caring deeply about a subject. Creative thinking requires a willingness to make mistakes. The point of this approach is to encourage exploration, and avoid a march through a series of pre-determined steps.

A really clever manipulation or an inspired substitution can make a difficult problem easy, producing a tingling sensation. As parents, we can duplicate the mistakes that schools make by using conventional teach, practice, and test instructional methods, or we can learn from their mistakes and do better. We can avoid the drill and kill approach in favor of encouraging open-ended exploration of Mathematical ideas. If you are looking for a Math curriculum that will engage your child so that real learning takes place, consider creative problem-solving or project-based approaches. Another approach is to engage your child in projects in which mathematics is integrated into the process of designing, building, and creating something. Projects might be related to carpentry, technology, performance arts, visual arts, sports, social activities, or anything else that is of interest. For example, technology-based projects using Google Earth.

Help kids know how to make meaning and sense of what they are learning, creativity is just an extension of that. Develop the Math comfort and build Mozarts of Math.



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