If you caught my last post, you already know how math determines your child’s success in seemingly unrelated academic areas and in their future career. Now I want to dig deeper into the more specific skills and concepts a child learns when they’re truly understanding math (versus just memorizing some facts), that can then help them in all areas of life. When you have a mental tool like math, it really can change the way you think about everything thing else.
I mentioned analytical skills and problem-solving, but what are some examples of this? Personally, I saw math develop my own analytical skills in high school, during a time when I wasn’t even pursuing math as a career. I had just found my way into computer programming and that math-based field was teaching me math skills in ways I, at the time, didn’t even realize. At the same time that I was taking computer programming in high school, I was also involved in speech and debate. I’m 100 percent sure that the logic I learned from computer programming affected my performance in this extracurricular. It gave me the precision and logic necessary to poke holes in the opposition’s arguments and do so in a succinct way that easily led to victories for my debate team. The precision and logic that stems from math is irrefutable; math is just facts. When you learn the facts for math specifically, the logic and precision skills stick around, playing in the background when you take on other mental challenges and need to formulate an argument or a theory with the best chances of irrefutable correctness.
Children who grasp mathematical reasoning at an early age go on to use their reasoning and logic skills to better both their careers and their worlds. In one study, two cohorts of 13-year-olds in the top 1 percent of mathematical reasoning ability were followed throughout their lives. After 40 years had passed, those students with the highest mathematical reasoning skills had gone on to accomplish incredible things. Across the nearly 1,700 students, they had…
Their math acumen (and their corresponding aptitude for logic and reasoning) predicted their creative contributions and occupational leadership.
Children who never grasp basic math concepts conversely go on to become older students and then adults without the same precise, logical abilities. When this happens, it’s easy to invent stories about why you might not be good at math. Maybe you tell yourself that you’re not a “numbers person” (an excuse not to succeed at numbers-related tasks). There aren’t really “numbers” and “not-numbers people.” Everyone has the same mathematical abilities. It just comes down to whether or not you’re correctly exercising that part of your brain — the logical, precise part — that makes math easy. The more you use that part of your brain, the stronger it gets. Math is simply a tool you can use to strengthen your logic and reasoning. However, if you’ve invented a story for yourself about why you’re not good at math, or if you’ve had a bad experience learning math and have resulting “math anxiety,” you’re less likely to want to develop that part of your brain later in life and learn math-related skills, because you associate math with pain.
Preventing your child from becoming an adult with math anxiety isn’t difficult. All it takes is giving them the right experiences with math as a student so that they (a) are comfortable exercising the logical parts of their brains using the tool of math and (b) understand math as a logical way of thinking versus simply a series of numbers and formulas to memorize.
Elephant Learning teaches math concepts from a logic and reasoning perspective, so students learn the underlying basic skills of math before attempting to tackle intimidating numbers and equations. These basic skills are the aspects of math that set up your child to succeed throughout the rest of their life.Get started with the Elephant Learning app and see how I used my knowledge as a Ph.D. mathematician to change the early learning math experience to remarkable results. Our users learn at least a year of math in three months, just by using the app 30 minutes per week, or your money back.
Math anxiety — a fear of getting math concepts and problems wrong and the resulting avoidance of math because of that — is something I’ve seen many times over my life and not just in children. It’s just as prevalent in adults and, believe it or not, despite my PhD in math, I experienced math anxiety as a child, too. While some children allowed their math anxiety to grow into a lifelong avoidance of math, mine fueled my competitive spirit and led me to push ahead of my peers, learning advanced math concepts even when I wasn’t able to get into the advanced math classes my middle school offered.
It is never too late to understand math. At a young age, many of us had the experience of being told that “we are just not a numbers person.” Books have been written on this social phenomena, and half of all Americans report Math anxiety. As it turns out, mathematics is really about learning jargon, a jargon that is so fundamental to humanity that we consider it vocabulary.
At the end of the day, algebra comes down to these three steps: define, recognize and produce. No matter if your child is in middle school or a PhD math program, it’s all about defining (can you understand it?), recognizing (can you identify it?), and producing (can you use it to produce results or new research?). If you can help your child with these three aspects of algebra at home, they’ll be better set up for success in the classroom and the future.
Most students learn to multiply in school by memorizing their multiplication tables. There’s nothing wrong with memorizing multiplication tables, but a child must know what the multiplication tables mean. If they’re multiplying seven by six, they need to have that picture in the back of their head of six groups of seven or seven groups of six. If not, they don’t have a true understanding of what multiplication actually is and it won’t serve them later on in life.Take, for example, a child who knows that five times four is 20. She can solve the multiplication problem with ease.
In early elementary education, the first concepts that we work with are counting and comparisons — that is, quantity comparisons versus what's bigger and smaller. We might show a child an image of four objects and an image with 12 objects, and ask them to identify which has more or fewer. It's important for children to know the difference because it sets the stage for addition and subtraction.
Making math fun for your child within the confines of your everyday world is easy. Let’s say you’re walking down the sidewalk with your child and they say, “Oh, there’s a train.” That’s an opportunity for you to ask how many train cars they can see. How many engines are on the train? Even if it’s just their toys sitting out on the floor, you could ask them, “Can you give me three toy dogs right now?” Then your child has to identify what’s a dog, what’s not a dog and how many of them equal three.Take whatever your child can identify and formulate a math lesson that’s on their level.