Wednesday, 8 August 2012

How to Inspire a Little Mathematician.

As a mathematician, one thing that really gets my goat is people's attitude to Maths:  it's difficult, it's boring, it's just numbers and times tables, I never could do maths, I was rubbish at maths at school.  You know the thing.  Would people be so eager to admit they couldn't read or write?

Why is English seen as a "fun and enjoyable" pastime (reading, crosswords, watching plays, writing blogs, etc), but maths isn't?

To me maths is a great pastime ...

... and so not about numbers!

It's about patterns, logic, relationships, cause and effect, connections and ultimately, solving puzzles.

What is a quadratic equation if not a puzzle to be solved?

And who doesn't love puzzles?

Perhaps we should rename the subject "Puzzles"?

So, with this bee in my bonnet, I was dismayed when my daughter started to say that she didn't like maths lessons, they were boring and she hates doing times tables.

"Guess what, sweetheart?" I said, "Times tables are important when you are eight, but they are not really maths!"

That's when it hit me.  Children are turned off maths by learning number relationships in primary schools and thinking that that is what maths is.  We need to switch our children back on to maths!

So I set out to inspire her:

Firstly, the author of the Murderous Maths books, Kjartan Poskitt, visited my school so I bought her a couple of his books and had him sign them for her.

She loved them and was soon telling me all about Pythagoras' Theorem with great authority.

She's now dipping into "Savage Shapes" and telling me lots of facts about triangles!

Then I thought I'd foster a love of logic in her and bought her this set of logic puzzles:

which we took on holiday with us.

Each day she asked for them when she was sitting under the umbrella by the pool and even raced against daddy to solve them (often beating him!).

Again, she loved them.

Then, and this was a bit of a gamble, I bought her a copy of a Maths Quest book:

It's one of those books where you solve a puzzle and then it tells you which page to turn to to continue the adventure.

Well, this was the biggest hit of all!

She's now mithering for "Cavern of Clues", "Planet of Puzzles" and other Maths Quest books.

Mission accomplished, I think!


Claire said...

I remember having a conversation with you one evening, quite a few years ago now, about maths and thinking that I wish you had been my teacher!

Eldest son loves the Horrible Histories and Horrible Science books so I've just bought some of your recommended maths ones for him as he actually seems to like maths (unlike me at the same age!), long may it continue!!!

Jenny said...

I wish those Murderous Math books weren't so hard to purchase in America.

Lorraine The Party Times said...

Brilliant!! Am about to follow your lead with my 9 year old!

superworkingmum said...

will need to check out these books now...