Beauty in Math? Really?
I know it sounds “hoaky!” But what if… What if you could get your child to see math differently. Just for a minute. Then maybe they’d entertain another and another minute until they found it actually memorizing, captivating, and yes, fun!
As an adult, when someone says, “Do the math,” what feedback does that phrase provoke? Ugh! Boredom! No, please, not now. You automatically think of something mundane like addition or multiplication, with little depth of scope to the concept. Imagine someone saying, “Do the Lit?” Why you can’t even wrap your head around the possibilities, it’s so vast. Lit conjures stories, words with infinite possibilities, pictures describing literature. What if math did that for your children?
Math ideas can permeate our universe and beyond. Visually, math can surprise and enthrall. Perhaps the most fascinating is to think of infinity being harnessed by the finite. Time travel. Space. 3-D Geometric figures that amaze us.
Break It Down
Despite what most people think, many complex mathematical concepts do not require advanced skills to appreciate or even understand. For example, we can develop a fairly good understanding of the power of calculus, without actually being able to use it to solve engineering problems.
Negativity and lack of appreciation for math is passed down from generation to generation. And to turn this ship around and dispel all previous negative notions, our kids need a paradigm shift. What if kids understood the reference that math is like fine art. They can appreciate art without requiring the ability to paint, or enjoy a performance in a movie or play without being able to act. Math is the same way! There are so many wondrous aspects to math and each one needs to be understood and not memorized.
Sadly, kids are not exposed to the beauty of math in school. It’s not the teachers fault. The class sizes are so large, that they barely have the time and energy to get the basic concepts across. Then the kids are left with homework to “study” which is really memorize. Few avenues exist in our society to expose us to mathematical beauty. In schools, as I’ve heard several teachers say they’d like to have the time to expose the kids to the beauty of math but their good intentions are stifled by drilling the kids for the next upcoming test, And math rarely comes up in our culture in the media, except to lament over our country’s budget woes!
Let’s face it. How often do we enjoy to site down and just memorize something? Never! It’s not fun. It requires NO creativity (unless you are using an acronym). It’s boring and ineffective beyond the test. The beauty of math is that it involves so little memorization — almost zero once you have mastered the multiplication tables. The failure to recognize this simple attribute by many students leads to their downfall. After cramming for the exam, with no effort towards retaining the knowledge, it’s sure to be lost. But what happens when we have to use that knowledge for the next level of math in school? Go back and memorize it again, and again, until we perform at each level to sort of succeed. Then the SAT comes along and we are expected to actually know how to apply the math and use critical thinking skills. That’s where our kids falter when memorization is their primary tool.
For the better part of the last decade our math tutors have too frequently been asked to just tell their students the formula for solving a particular problem. Students want their tutors to provide them a memorizable prescription for the solution of those particular problems. Explanations towards helping them understand the multi-step process and math concepts are dismissed with comments like “we don’t need to know that.
To help students understand the importance and beauty of mathematics, the memorization paradigm needs to be smashed and replaced by a problem solving framework which is built upon a structure readily derivable from existing knowledge. Problem solving skills must be encouraged at least as much as memorization skills. We owe that much to all students.
Fortunately, today’s online world offers advanced video and animation that can help our efforts. Through this technology, maybe kids will finally understand that they can enjoy math, at least visually, and there’s hope for their appreciation and most importantly their understanding.
Written by Kimberly Smith
Omega Learning Center
Omega Learning Center offers tutoring K-12 and comprehensive math programs with proven results. Omega Learning Centers achieve results because of our AIM Tutoring System.
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