Think about it! Our culture today is all about instant gratification. It is all about ‘I want it now.’ Yet Math is counter culture. Math is about struggling to understand. Math is about working out a solution and maybe even going down a few dead ends before the solution reveals itself. Math is work. It’s no wonder that learning math is rejected in our ‘let’s make it easy’ society.
Now we do try to fool ourselves. I see a lot of products such as “Math Made Simple”, “Math Made Easy”, “Math tricks”, “All the Math You’ll Ever Need to Know in One Book.” I hate this advertising for several reasons. One reason that just glares in my face is the misnomer of it. What did they do to make math easy? What happened to the ‘hard math?’ Also the name is misleading. What may be an easy or simple approach to learning math for you, may not be simple for me. What are you lead to believe about yourself if you still don’t get it and yet it is ‘easy math?’ What are you telling your child with this product? Do you believe your child is capable of doing ‘real’ math? What is your child going to do when he is finally faced with ‘real’ math? Are they going to find out that he has been ‘faking’ math all this time? In his mind, it is not a matter of ‘will they find out’, but ‘when’. Sadly, I know adults who feel they aren’t any good at math. They feel that they have been faking it. They dread the day when they will be found out. Some have changed college majors and others have given up on dream careers all in fear that the math would eventually be more than they could handle. That faking the math wouldn’t work anymore. It is sad but true. Do you see where I’m going with this? Is this real math or what?
But back it this counter-culture idea of instant gratification. What is wrong with struggling to understand something? Am I stupid because Johnny figured the problem out before I did? I don’t think so! Yet a lot of parents get anxious about their child when they compare him to his classmates. Johnny knows his multiplication tables, so you must know them too. Your brother never had any problem with math. What’s wrong with you? Then there’s the dreaded incident of being call to the blackboard to answer a simple math problem and you don’t know how. These situations shouldn’t happen. They are damaging and are in no way a reflection of a person’s true math capabilities. Yet they happen and they lead our children to believe less of their capabilities. As a parent myself, I think it is okay to struggle at math but no one should be embarrassed because they struggle. Have you ever considered that maybe your child is better off for having struggled to get the answer? Does the struggle build character, fortitude, perserverance? What does instant gratification build? What does ‘Made Easy’ build? Self esteem is built through true accomplishments that come after struggle and persisting in the face of failure and finally succeeding. Isn’t that the self esteem you want for your child. Well you can’t have it with instant gratification.
Learning math is certainly made easier when you can find an approach or teaching method that matches your learning style. Learning math is easier when you want to learn it, when it is fun like a game. Learning math becomes easier when you have a reason for learning it. Fulfill these three requirements and you will unlock the secret of learning math. Fulfill these three requirements for your child and you will have a child who wants to learn math, who enjoys the challenge. But I won’t say ‘learning math is easy’. Maybe the learning will be easier but that is up to you and how you encourage your child in math.