Making Our Children ‘Love’ Math As A Subject

By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, OCT, Brookview Middle School, Toronto-Canada.

“If children have interest then education happens.”

Akwamuman Senior High School in Ghana was recently reported in the news as having received computer software that would tutor students in Mathematics. Technology in the teaching of Math as a subject in our schools has become very essential in today’s world. Children are easily attracted to computers and other technological devices which provide games. Such devices when appropriately guided and directed (supervised) by a trained teacher, are very effective tools for learning. They become useful tools for facilitating learning in the classroom. They make learning fun! However, the learning of Mathematics is no fun to many students. Ask many students from Ghana to Canada and across the world and about seventy percent of students surveyed would tell you that ‘they hate Mathematics as a subject!’ Why? Even among teachers, you would one say, “Math was not my favorite subject at school. When I was a student I love Math and as a teacher, I love to teach Math.
What is Math?
Math is the most misunderstood subject. Research confirms that for more than two thousand years, mathematics has been a part of the human search for understanding. Most discoveries have been promoted by the study of mathematics. Science has been driven by Math. Think of the Pythagoras, the Galileo and the Archimedes! Mathematics is not about answers, it's about processes. How do we arrive at that answer? Which steps are followed? Are there other ways by which we can arrive at the same answer? So Math is more of problem solving. If it is so the question that we need to ask is: How do children then learn Math? According to Marian Small (Making Math Meaningful to Canadian Students), “There is a strongly held belief in the mathematics education community that mathematics is best learned when students are actively engaged in constructing their understandings.” I couldn’t agree with Small the more. However, how do students actively engage in bringing about their own understanding if they are not interested in what they are asked to do?
Loving Math:
We do what we love doing, right? Loving Math is not just by chance. There may be some few children who are naturally gifted in Mathematics. At school, they score the highest marks in Math and even ‘teach’ their teachers how to do some Math. True! However, there are many children who we must encourage as parents and teachers to love Math. Math is everywhere. In the house, around the dinner table, in the streets, at church, in the stores/malls and in our favorite sports-money, time, distance, capacity, quantity, building, playing and so forth! We ought to arouse the interest of our children in these areas through our daily interactions with them.
Movement is common among children. Many children love to interact with their friends as we see when they are in the gym for physical education. One of the major problems I find among my students is the constant need to be moving – being active. Many of them have difficulty keeping focused; hence they require frequent change in their activities to sustain their attention. “Movement in drama offers students an opportunity to explore and express thoughts and feelings through physical action. It can serve to increase the student’s willingness to get involved in drama and to encourage interaction with other members of the group. Further, by allowing the students to work creatively and spontaneously, it can enhance the aesthetic learning experience”. (David Booth, Story Drama, p. 50) The students love Gym – Why? It is because Gym gives them an opportunity to move. How can we incorporate this same enthusiasm in other classes? Simple, by including that factor that makes Gym so exciting – movement. My students resent activities that restrict them to a desk with pen and paper most of the time. As teachers, we need to ‘dramatize’ Math in the classroom or engage our students more in group-work during their Math lessons.
Personally, I think we need to catch our children young with Math. Think about the quote of Dr. Altaf Qadeer:
“Nobel Laureate of today was an elementary level student one day”. Numbers are a part of a young child’s life. The chid is interested to know many, for example, cookies he or she can eat. So let us make them count! According to Baroody (2004), a number has four possible meanings:
• A number can tell how many
• A number can describe a measurement
• A number can describe a location (for example, boot 3)
• A number can be a name (for example, student 24)
Thus, we create or use ‘interest’ to make children learn Math. The technological devices are useful but the basics are very fundamental to teaching even problem solving in Math. The more we practice Math with our children in our daily activities, the more we create interest in them (extrinsic) to love Math. Make Math fun, bring Math home to the child to engage him or her to create his or her understanding of Math. As parents and teachers, we need to give the basics in Math to our children through constant practice and provide them tools to solve problems. Then, they would be discovering Math for themselves. Then, they would love Math as a subject. If you need help to assist your child in learning Math, do not hesitate to do that. Ask and you will be given; seek and you will find (from the computer to the Math teacher). A deeper understanding of mathematics will enable you to let your children explore Math.

Source: Ghanaweb