The Fun of Pi Day
My middle-schooler was just beaming on the morning of March 14th. She couldn’t wait to tell me that it was Pi day (because the math symbol for pi=3.14 which is like the date 3/14) and that this year was extra special. I laughed when she told me why. She said that 3+14= 17 and this year the date for Pi Day was 3/14/17. So it was a double whammy of nerd amusement. I was kind of dying because I had to keep my nerd jokes at bay for her sake. (But inside, I was thinking: Come to the dork side, we have pi.)
When I picked her up from school later that day, I asked if her math teacher had done anything special for Pi Day, but she glumly replied that he didn’t do anything fun at all. She was ticked because the other math teachers gave their classes pie to eat on Pi Day (they must have been thinking outside the box).
Even though she was annoyed at her teacher for not embracing the math nerd holiday, I was happy. What? Happy about no pie? No, I was happy that my daughter loves math so much. There are tons of parents out there who struggle to get their kids to do their math homework every day. But my daughter does her homework without any intervention on my part.
It’s very common for kids to hate math. Less than 32% of high school seniors are proficient in math in the United States. Not only that, but 46.5% of parents surveyed by the National Center For Family Literacy said that they struggled with helping their kids with math because they didn’t understand it themselves. But my daughter and I are not in that group.
Am I bragging? Why yes, I am. But here’s the important message, you can help your kids love math too. There are some easy steps you can take that will change the way your kids view math.
Make Math Fun for Kids
I’ve known a few math haters in my time and it can be a challenge to get them to do their homework. But there are a few tricks that really help. These tricks helped my daughter love math all through elementary school and into middle school. She loved it so much that she joined the school math competition.
She isn’t the typical kind of kid you would think would love math. My daughter is very athletic, loves sports, and would rather have fun with friends than do homework. She is silly, energetic, and loves goofing off just as much as the next kid. In fact, she might even have a few A.D.D. symptoms going on. But she likes math anyway. Why? Because we taught her from the beginning that math can be fun.
Here are some ways to make math fun for your kids:
1. Talk about math in a positive way early on.
Studies have shown that one of the main reasons kids hate math is because their parents verbalize how much they hate math. Often parents say right in front of their kids, “I’m not a math person.” You might not realize the effect your attitude toward math will have on your kid. When my daughter was young, I told her how important math is and how much fun it can be. I taught her from an early age to have a good attitude toward math and it has made a huge difference.
2. Play math games during early childhood.
Kids love games. They don’t usually love work. So make sure they think that math is a fun game, not hard work. Since she was little, I played math games with my daughter. We played everything from math board games to dolls with math related tasks to do. One of her favorites was Hi Ho Cherry-O. Because our math involved playing, she looked at math like it was a game or a puzzle or something fun to solve.
3. Talk about math every time it comes up in real life.
Kids don’t always understand how math applies to the real world. But a good way to help kids love math is to point out the everyday applications of math as you go about normal activities.
When my daughter and I went to the store, I would talk about how math was involved. There are price tags, scales, quantity labels, money to count, and change to get back. When we cooked together, we discussed measuring amounts and counting and volume. We discovered how math applied to our activities at the playground, in the car, while sitting in a movie theater, and even while in church. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all math, all the time. It was just enough that there was a very clear understanding on her part that math is the language of the world around us.
4. Encourage play with blocks and Legos.
Playing with blocks and other three-dimensional building toys helps children develop spatial reasoning and problem solving abilities. The more this happens, they better they get at spatial intelligence activities. Early spatial intelligence can be a predictor of math success later in life. In addition, the process of playing with Legos develops all kinds of areas in the brain that are useful in math.
5. Use math video games or videos to teach skills.
Practice makes perfect. If your kid needs a little down time so you can make dinner, try giving them an age appropriate math game instead of just sitting them in front of the TV. I’m not a big fan of TV or video game usage when it comes to children, but if they are already going to be watching TV, why not switch it to a cartoon that involves math. If you have a tablet, download a math app. There are millions available. I didn’t really have this option available when my daughter was young, but I have used apps with my younger kids to help them practice. Getting the basic math concepts down early on can set them up for success later on.
6. Read books with math stories.
There are a huge variety of books on Amazon that involve not only math concepts but math vocabulary. These aren’t boring books either. I’m talking about beautiful picture books with fun stories. Kids love stories. When you read math related stories to children you are helping them with math and reading at the same time. We read many stories like this to my daughter and she loved them.
7. Stay involved with your kid’s math homework.
Schedule time into your day to sit down with your child while they are working on their math homework. Be there for them if they have questions. Even if you don’t know the answer right away, you can always Google it. I have found some pretty useful equations online to help my daughter solve weird algebra story problems. They even came with examples and explanations. There are many websites out there that
It is never too early to make math fun.
All of the above suggestions should be started when the kids are young, as early as toddler age or in early elementary school. It’s right around third or fourth grade that kids generally begin to dislike math.
But even if you have already hit the “I hate math” stage, there are ways to make it fun again. Get involved and be creative. If you want your kids to be good at math and to love it, show them it is important to you. Spend time with them in ways that will make math fun. Kids love fun!
Thanks for stopping by. What kind of things to you do to encourage your kids to love math? Leave a comment below.
-Julie For Real