Maths - the number of times I hear "I'm no good at maths!", "I hate it", "I'm not a numbers person", "I always fail at maths". The strange thing is, it's often said with a smile, a shrug, an acceptance that it's normal, it's ok. In contrast you would hardly ever hear someone admit in public "I can't read", "I can't write" and if someone did I am confident it would not be said with a smile.
Maths, whether we love it or hate it, is a fundamental part of everyday life. It's a global language. It underpins many essential life skills and yet also can be the key to many of life's biggest questions. For something so indispensable we should definitely seek to master it but more importantly have fun with it. I believe that maths can and should be enjoyed by anyone and everyone!
I feel very fortunate to have had a series of training and development days with a fabulous mathematician, Jennie Pennant, a member of the University of Cambridge's NRICH team. She has a magical way of demonstrating how maths can be fun, engaging, stimulating and most importantly accessible to all. This week Jennie has been touring the Explore Learning centres and delivering training to a large number of our managers so that we can spread this creativity in maths through all our classes. At the heart of making maths accessible is a fabulous concept - 'low threshold - high ceiling'. This means that the mathematical problems we work on do not require a large amount of prerequisite knowledge, for example, you might need to have basic computation skills to access the problem. Everyone feels able to give the problem a go and with this confidence some amazing things can happen. Suddenly you start seeing children being able to think mathematically, systematically, logically, make predictions and using conjecture!
It's great news that the new curriculum for 2014 will start seeing problem solving forming a more prominent part of our children's mathematical journey. Whilst there is still quite a heavy emphasis on computation I hope schools can find interesting ways of covering these skills within the problem solving arena. For lots of fabulous low threshold - high ceiling activities visit the NRICH website. You might also like to check out the new specialist classes recently launched at Explore Learning -'Creative Maths'. These classes for 8-11 year olds have been designed with Jennie's support and they are working mathematical magic with our passionate and not so passionate mathematicians.
If you are struggling to get your child excited about maths here are a few other suggestions:
• Play games - There are so many games that you can play with your kids to improve logical thinking, like chess and draughts. Maths related board games like Monopoly and Rummikub are also great fun and are a good way to spend some quality time together. Playing cards is so beneficial - I remember learning a lot of maths through cribbage. Or check out Ulti - a great card game that helps you master your tables (www.ulti-ltd.com).
• Mix shopping with learning - When you're on your weekly shop, get the children involved by asking them to recite the prices and add up what's in the trolley. Playing the guess how much the shopping comes to (and hope that then lowest guess wins!)
• Bake and learn - All cooking requires some element of maths. Baking cakes and cookies can easily become an educational game. Test their maths skills by asking them to add up or adapt a recipe for different amounts of serving. The great thing about this is that they get to eat the results at the end!
• Games and Apps - We're lucky to live in a generation where our children are spoilt for choice with the amount of games and apps on offer to keep them entertained. There are so many apps out there and here at Explore learning we recently launched a free Times Table app to help children while they're on the move, see here.
• Don't pass on your insecurities - If you're a parent who proudly claims to be bad at maths - STOP! Even if it's true that you could be a lot better, don't shout about it. By saying how much you dislike maths, you are passing this negativity down to your child who will see that it's acceptable to not be great at maths. Encourage them by making it fun, and if they're good at it, remind them that they should be proud of it!
You never know, with your help you might have a Carol Vorderman or a Rachel Riley on your hands!