For centuries, I am sure, students have groaned and questioned the real use of mathematics outside of school. However, long before modern technological advances, math concepts have shaped our world and been pivotal in our daily lives. Math is secretly our favorite subject because it allows us to question, prove, construct, dismantle, divide, and conquer the world around us. This April for Math Education Month, help spark interest with activities at home and in the community that take the mundane out of this fundamental subject.
Despite the headache-causing bad rap, 34% adults name math as the most useful subject in their daily lives. We secretly love math because it helps us arrive to meetings on time, bake perfect cakes, and complete our taxes. The key to fostering an appreciation of mathematics is helping students connect textbook concepts with real world applications. In fact, I fell in love with math in 7th grade when my teacher related our study of percentages to shopping for retail bargains.**
It is never too early to spark an interest in math. However, studies find that during middle and high school, students are more likely to fall behind in math and less likely to ever regain momentum. During this time it is particularly important to keep students excited by increasing their hands-on interaction with math.
Aundrea's 3 Ways to Spark Interest in Math
- Math Applications: My youngest brother recently tipped me off to the exciting world of math computer apps. I was amazed one evening as he sat glued to his tablet, playing Math Ninja. He was ecstatic because this was homework. I was ecstatic because he was engrossed in multiplication tables--groan-free! To spark an interest, try playing fun and educational games at home. Math Ninja, Elevated Math, and Operation Math Code Squad are all little brother-approved.
- Hands-on activities at home: Lessons about math do not have to be confined to the classroom. Start at home by discussing how math functions in everyday life. This is important for making math approachable and building students' confidence with its use. Try activities such as a family Do It Yourself building or sewing projects, gardening, or cooking is a great way to relate the uses of math. For more hands-on activity ideas, click here.
- Summer Camps: With STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), becoming an educational focal point, many new summer programs are emerging across the county. As these camps combine abstract thinking, problem solving, and hands-on learning, students gain much more depth to their understanding and use of math. For math summer camps near you, click here.
We continue to love math because we love a good challenge. As adults, math is good for our brains and also for keeping problem solving-skills sharp too. It is never too late to develop your own love of math.
2 Ways to Indulge Your Inner Math Lover
- Ask Dr. Math: I recently stumbled upon Drexel University’s Math Forum. The site provides explanations and resources for topics such as geometry. In addition, math enthusiasts can even send their burning questions to Dr. Math, a resident math professor. I eagerly read an article where Dr. Math answered one student’s question about “truth in mathematics” and her interest in studying number theory. To the latter, Dr. Math offered this great advice:
"If you read the biographies of great mathematicians (and I think you should), you'll find that one thing they all had in common is that they didn't wait around for other people to teach them mathematics. They went out and learned it from books, or made it up as they went along."
2. Work through famous math problems: If you really enjoy a challenge, try retracing the steps of famous mathematicians. Formulas such as Euler's Identity, the Fibonacci Sequence, or even the Pythagorean Theorem will have your inner math nerd jumping for joy. Or, if you are looking for slightly less challenging fun, try cracking the world's hardest sudoku!
Math is our favorite subject because it is both a tool to express ideas and a building block of innovation. Famous physicist, Albert Einstein, (despite being rumored to have failed math in school) noted that math was in fact the only tool powerful enough to help him study the universe. By helping more students foster a love of math, we are really sharing with them endless possibilities in learning and life.
**By the way, this lesson still proves useful, particularly as I continue my debt and savings plan, Project Debt Down!
An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.What do you love most about math?