Friday, December 15

Numbers Are Fun!!

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As a parent, do you feel that teaching mathematics to your young one, is the most mind boggling task  which you inevitably handle every day?  You start with a calm mind and great enthusiasm and your little darling is eager to learn but somehow, somewhere, something goes wrong; you start losing temper and your young one starts losing interest. You no longer want to teach and your little avid learner never ever wants to hear the word mathematics. End result is a big zero.

Have you ever thought why?

Well! This tiny series of articles is not only a sincere effort to answer this question but it offers to the frustrated parents some simple techniques which can remarkably change the way children respond to mathematics teaching.

Happy Math Mating !!!

Dedicated to all those parents who really want their kids to enjoy mathematics.

Everyday Basic Mathematics

Step 1: Let us understand some simple rules:

1. Do you remember reading ‘Hinduism is not a religion, it is a way of living…!

  • Mathematics is not a subject, it is a way of concretized thinking …!

2. What do you want to think about, whenever you are free? Simple! Things / persons /places / ideas you enjoy being with.

  • Intention should be ’developing love for experiencing the application of mathematics in everyday life’ not ‘teaching mathematics’.. .

3. Remember, bond between you and the child is not a result of single day intense affair with the child, it is the accumulation of all those tiny precious enjoyable moments you had shared with him/her..

  • Desire for learning / enjoying Mathematics cannot be developed in a day or two. You need to spend umpteen number of 2-3 minutes sessions with your kid explaining or playing mathematics.

4. Take out pencil / pen and paper. Kid understands it’s time to study. And if he is not already enjoying the process, he will sit with you with a negative frame of mind. This is passive, negative teaching.

  • Avoid pencil / pen and paper as far as possible while explaining concepts. Instead, incorporate use of day-to-day used tools or toys like crayons, blocks, toys, chocolates, etc!! Ensure by any mechanism you are getting active participation of the kid in teaching / learning process.

5.  Research reveals that our brain stores complex set of information in form of images. Information retention and retrieval is faster for ideas which have been visualized.

  • Help them visualize numbers from an early stage. Help them think two chocolates, two cars, two birds or two-whatever the child feels excited about, whenever you are referring number two. Stop, focusing on symbol ’2’ per se. Later, we will see how this practice helps in the long run.

6. Mathematics is application oriented. It is part and parcel of your life. So how can one ever think of giving the concept of this very subject  on a study table!!

  • Go out for a picnic, show various groups to give the concept of fractions, drive to a restaurant; read the menu card and show the concept of sorting. Ways are numerous and later chapters in this book would help you to be more creative with your ideas.

7. Have Patience. Work with a long term goal.

  • You know kid should learn to tell time, read out maps etc.etc. The best way is to involve her in every possible way you could in your day to day activities / calculations. We feel they are not able to understand anything but they are smarter than what we think they are. Keep reinforcing, keep them involved with your calculations and one day they are going to outsmart you!

8. Last, not the least, remember – Enthusiasm is charismatic, it is contagious.

  • You yourself be enthusiastic while talking about numbers. Never ever say that you are scared of numbers. Never try to teach about numbers, if you are tired, not in mood…even non-enthusiasm is equally contagious!

Step 2: Lets get practical

Visualizing Numbers

Ask a kid of grade II to find total number of  chocolates arranged in heaps of  6 and 4 chocolates.

Scenario I:  (Oh! I don’t really enjoying doing this but since I respect you,) I would try. A frowning face is busy counting numbers on little nimble fingers and few seconds later comes the answer 10.

Scenario II: Oh! That’s very simple. It is 10.

Obviously scenario II is the way you would like your kid to perform. But having taught her counting numbers as numbers not as object (we would now onwards call this Object Oriented way), achieving this would be little difficult. And if you try to replace 6 with 60 or 16 or 26 and 4 with 40 or 14 or 24, well, you need to give her pencil and paper and have to make sure that the teacher has taught her carry forward method!!

What went wrong:?

Problem 1: Child knows numbers as symbols but really did not get time to understand the concept itself. He is asked to add and subtract and identify greater or smaller even though basic counting skills are yet to develop. Whenever you talked about concept of two , you emphasized the symbol 2. The little great mind associated sound ‘two’ more with symbol two and less with two little lines drawn on a piece of paper or two fingers.

Remedy:Give ample practice of counting things encountered everyday, everywhere and help the kid think in object oriented style. Teach them in a holistic way, weave math-teaching  around everyday scenarios and club it with other information to amuse the child. Use ample anecdotes.

Problem 2: In the classroom, when addition is taught, emphasis is on symbols of numbers and symbol of addition itself along with the jargons addend, addition and sum. Practical or the demos for the same are minimal. So the kid takes time to understand that he has to really add, when she is posed with the problem .

Remedy: Instead of teaching the basic operations in isolation, use practical approach.

Like some simple one minute (maximum) exercises which can be performed with the kid in playway method for counting—

1.       Bring two oranges, one for you and one for me. (Here you can talk about the importance of balanced diet or the classification of orange as citrus fruit or just the different kinds of fruits)

2.      Oh, it’s time to relish chocolates. Bring one for each one of us in the room. Papa – one, Mama – two, you – three …(Talk about history of chocolates, or that even eating junk is sometimes OK!)

3.       It’s time to water plants.. Ok, today you water the plant. Let us put as many mugs of water in the bucket as the number of pots in that corner….and then water them (Plants are our friends, develop in the young hearts an affinity, a caring attitude  for them)

4.      Wow, we have got one, two, three.. cassettes / CDs of the rhymes. Why don’t u pick up the third one, so that we  play it for all of us. (Talk about music, musical instruments or singers or concerts ..)

5.       Dinner time: We need spoons, plates, bowls, glasses for all of us in the family. Bring from mama as many as required. (See as a bonus papa is helping mama who is in kitchen and kid is involved. It’s definitely going to improve the bond)… On the dining table let your imagination soar. The number of peas in veggie pulao, number of cherries required for everyone sitting on the dining table, number of apples in the fruit basket, for that matter even the total number of chapattis/bread required !!)

6.       Corner-Corner game: Run, touch and count each corner of the room. In garden, run, touch and count all the plants. (Sum up the session with briefing on importance of  exercise for good health)

7.       Count the number of lights, number of fans, number of switches ( A bit on how the electricity impacts our everyday life, the invention)

8.      Keep a count of number of greeting cards received, number of cards sent (Share with them the feeling you have for your relatives, for your friends. After all, your little one is the one who would shoulder the responsibility of maintaining these relations / feelings farther.. As a bonus, you see your social life is improving)

9.       Working on a computer: Number of icons on the desktop, number of tools on the tool bar, number of keys on the keyboard, number of CDs on the CD rack, number of applications installed for the kid..( The history, the functionality, the applications, the uses, a lot could be talked about this field even if you are not a tech-savvy person.)

10.    Traveling: Number of poles, number of huts, hills, trees, tunnels, bridges, number of baggage, number of fellow passengers, number of seats (a brief on the place being visited, its history, places worth visiting, people, language, culture, the geography, oh, the list seems endless)

11.    My personal all time favourite is the card game. Any number of players can play this game. Ask the players to pick up any card from the common deck, and perform a predefined  activity based on the number and color the card has. Ex: jump or clap that many times. Lot many modifications are possible, with hearts you have to laugh, with diamonds—jump , with spade—clap and with clubs – knuckle your finger or eat cherry or whatever.. (Just for fun or could be more serious with the talk on how cards game originated)

This seems silly for you and me as adults but ,believe me, for kids, these are simply fabulous, enjoyable exercises and you too will start enjoying watching your own little self growing physically, emotionally and mathematically !

To be cont….


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