Thursday, October 25, 2012

10 Ways to Mess Up a Child's Mathematical Mind

I don't know many people who went into elementary education or homeschooling because of their love for math. (I know a few of you are out there. You're weird. Outliers. Accept it with pride.) Teaching math can be challenging, particularly if we have our own math demons lurking in the closet. The following post is designed expressly for those who would like to ruin the mathematicians of the next generation. If that's not you, you can skip it...or read it with the humor intended.




10 Ways to Mess Up a Child's Mathematical Mind:

1. Teach her that there is only one way to solve a problem. Reinforce that by giving her assignments in which she learns a set of predetermined steps to solve a particular type of problem and then practices that sequence over and over and over. And over. Don't ask her if there are other ways to solve problems.

2. Teach him that math is a solitary process. Reinforce it by placing him alone in front of a computer or textbook without talking about a variety of math strategies that might be used to solve similar problems. (See #1!)

3. Teach her that math only exists between the pages of textbooks. Don't point out the math you use as you grocery shop, balance your checkbook, calculate miles/gallon, prepare dinner, or figure how long it is until her bedtime so you can watch Jersey Shore in peace.

4. Teach him to be fearful of math. This is easy. It helps to do #1-3 above. But it also helps to model your own fearful behavior. Say things like, "Math is hard for me." Or "I never liked math." Or "I was born without the math gene." According to Marilyn Burns (Math: Facing An American Phobia), you're in good company with 2/3rds of American adults being math phobic. You're already on the bandwagon. It's a popular place to be. Don't jump ship now!

5. Teach her that math is primarily a world of pencil and paper. Don't ask her to estimate or use mental math.

6. Teach him to avoid visual cues. Forget using manipulatives, sketches, or drawings.

7. Don't read any math-related children's literature. Don't play any math games.

8. Always emphasize the importance of fact memorization. Drill, drill, drill. And if she can't get it, drill some more.

9. Never look at what wrong answers have to teach us. That would just be wrong!

10. Teach her that math is boring. And scary. Reinforce with #1-9 above.

Want to add to my list? Comment with your own ways to mess with children's mathematical minds!

32 comments:

  1. I am one of the weird, outliers! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Sometimes being an outlier is the most fun! :)

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  2. Thank you for this! As a math teacher, I hear the excuse "I am not good at math, so I don't expect my son/daughter to be either." That one is hard to look past.

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    1. That is so hard! Makes me want to "undo" whatever was done to them. I know I've had to undo a lot myself... Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I agree with Anonymous. You would never say I sttuggled with English, so it's ok for my kids not to be able to read.

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    1. Very good point. Never thought of it in that light...

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  4. I am sad to say that I have been guilty of all of the above at one time or another. I think I was born with two right hemispheres. I need folks like you with awesome mathy blogs to help rehabilitate me - Thank you so much!
    Marie

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    1. Oh Marie, we're all guilty!! It was easy to write because I know all ten only too well. When you know better you do better. (Or you blog about it to remember it!) :)

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  5. Replies
    1. You're welcome! Thanks for commenting! :)

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  6. Terrific! Too many people are scared of maths or can't believe it can be fun. Personally, I love it! Thankfully I had teachers who infused maths with a good dose of fun and real life application. Thanks for all the cool stuff you share :)

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    1. I still feel that fear creep in occasionally. But thankfully I've had people show me that it is fun. And interesting. And possible!

      Thank you for posting!

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  7. This is such a thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing and I hope you'll post it on "Look What We Did!" -Savannah http://lookwhatwedid-homeschool.blogspot.com

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    1. I will! And it's fine to link up on the blog roll. I replied to that post but then when I posted this one, it disappeared. Not sure why. But thanks for linking! :)

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  8. You are such an encouragement to me. I have changed a lot since I began reading your blog.

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    1. Awwww! Thanks! I was a little afraid to post it. I'm pretty sure I've done all those things at one time or another. I've changed a lot since I learned that there are better ways to do math than the way I was taught. I just wish more of us could learn it in a good way the first time. Thank you for such kind words. Means a lot!

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  9. Love this! I'm featuring this post on Bagels and Blogs tomorrow. :)

    Donna
    Math Coach’s Corner

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    1. Donna, I LOVE your blog. Thank you for featuring the post. I'm always learning new things from YOU! :) Keep doing awesome work. We need more educators like you!

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  10. I love this and my favorite kind of math is writing word problems! While tutoring 3rd and 4th graders for TAKS and STAAR I would create time elapse problems using my own life - a mom with 3 boys that play baseball and have to be at 3 different places all the time and ... anyway I'm one of those Outliers who actually used to be scared of math!

    Thanks for the laugh
    Connie

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    1. I can SOOOOOOOOO relate to the being multiple places at once for kids in sports. What a great math problem! I'm also an outlier who was scared of math. Glad to have your company! :)

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  11. Just stopping by to say this was one of the most popular posts on Look! What We Did! So, I have featured it. Thanks for linking up with such a fabulous resource.

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  12. can you give me some ideas about how to respond to the 'I hate math' 'math is boring' comments?

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    1. Meaning that a child is saying this? Or an adult?

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  13. I struggled so much with math and actually put that fear and trauma to good use and raised two mathamatician young men. I'm sure my husband's genetics played a part, but we played a lot of math games (Yahtzee, card games) and identified math in our day to day activities. Piwi...so make math not boring, but don't tell them it is math. Fractions with food and wrenches and nuts and bolts; multiplication with dice, food, pennies; shopping centers/grocery stores are the best math classrooms in the world. Hope these ideas get you started.

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  14. It would be funny, but in fact it's really-really sad.

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  15. Saw this on Pinterest and I just wanted to add to the list: Make Math a punishment and to enforce the sense of it being a punishment; have other kids around them doing fun things (like watching a movie). When I was in elementary school, math was difficult for me and when I couldn't finish an assignment on time, they made me finish it while all the other kids got to watch a movie -- with me in the room. I was a kid at that time, so naturally I would get distracted/want to watch the movie too, instead of doing math.

    Yes, on the one hand, you don't want your child to feel like math is something they MUST do alone or have this sense of "-gasp!- You didn't finish your assignment on time! Oooh, SHAME!" ; but don't allow the environment that they are TRYING to work in be a disruptive/distracting one. In fact, why not make it to where there is one hour set aside so that EVERY child can quietly work on assignments they weren't able to finish during the school day? For example, if Suzy needs to finish her spelling assignment and Bobby needs to finish his book report, allow Mary to finish her math assignment IN PEACE; no distractions, no disruptions.

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    1. Great addition! Thanks for thinking of it...and for posting!

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  16. I'd refer to the learner as a he or a she because there are a number of boys and men who do not see themselves as being "good at math".

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    1. I tried. By using he and she alternately. Because you're absolutely right!

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