I spend a lot of time here talking about teaching excellence, encouraging reading and early childhood education and to be clear: I firmly believe in a well-rounded education. That's why I wanted to share some tips on how we can create a love of math in younger people. My colleagues who work in education policy spend a lot of time thinking about how we can create children ready and able to compete in the global workforce. One of the best ways we can do this is to focus energy into ensuring our children receive a full education in math. As I've said before, a solid basis of education is the best way we can make and keep America great in the future, so I wanted to give some tips I've curated about how we can create the "mathletes" of the future.
Growing up, math was not my favorite subject -- except when lessons were about money. I learned how to count and make change running a lemonade stand and discovered, if it makes cents it will eventually make dollars. While operating a lawn care business, I gained a great understanding and appreciation for size, shapes' perimeters, square feet and a host of other math concepts and terms that have proven beneficial throughout my life. Most importantly, those practical examples helped me connect my in school learning with practical, real world examples: making the learning deeper and richer.
Use the language of math when you can. I'm starting with one of the most challenging pieces of advice -- to incorporate math into the everyday conversation of our lives. Think about asking your child for help in figuring out even basic mathematical concepts: "do we have more apples or oranges in this shopping cart?" Food time is always a good time to introduce mathematical ideas: how a half can quickly become a quarter, figuring out how many plates or spoons you need for a meal, guessing who should get more or less food based on equal sharing and appetites. Too often, we adults think that math doesn't play a major role in our lives. The reality is that math is everywhere. Asking kids to count people on buses, cars in the parking lot, how many items are in the shopping cart: making sure kids can process numbers and count effectively and early is important. Cooking, cleaning and running errands are all points in our lives that rely on math: involving your children in those can help keep them interested in math.
Use the best building blocks for math education that you can find. These aren't that hard to find: blocks, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Rubik's cubes are all around us. It's important that we teach our children about how to estimate size and understand the scope and limitations of space. Don't forget that geometry is math too! Teaching our children about shapes, how to re-imagine structures and make objects fit together are all important lessons that we can teach our young ones. The hope here is also that we can teach our children that math and learning can be fun as well, because after all, math isn't just about numbers, it's about important concepts that will help children understand more advanced themes like physics, chemistry and architecture.
Be supportive and ask for help. I've heard it before: people think that math has no relevance into our adult lives. It's not true, so don't say it- especially not in front of your children. Math is a key part of all of our lives- especially with tax day approaching- so don't let your kids hear that they don't need to focus on math. The reality is that too many of us don't think that we're great at math and that's okay. But instead of making your child feel that they can just get by and not focus on math, you're not only limiting their potential, you're keeping them from so many great potential career paths! Let's not be afraid to ask for help- this is what your child's teachers are for. An answer is never too far away, and your teachers would no doubt love to hear that you want to integrate math into your home lives, so don't hesitate to ask for tips. They can give you the latest on what they're covering in the classroom, tailor the tips for upcoming challenging lessons and maybe even give you the solutions you've been looking for.
Comfort with math is a great asset for any child, so we have to do our best to ensure that math isn't overlooked in the lives of the young people in your family. Don't hesitate to think about ways you can bring counting, sequencing and awareness of size, space and volume into your lives.