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Day in and day out, math teachers hear the same question: “Why do I need to learn this?” Math teacher Peter Caryotakis has two answers for his students. “Because someday your children will ask you for help with their homework,” is his funny (but accurate) reply. He follows up with a more serious answer: “Because knowing math will keep as many doors as possible open in your future.”

Math teachers all over the country have their favorite answers to this timeless question, reasons that demonstrate why math matters. In a nutshell, these reasons can be summed up by three words: Personal, Practical, and Patriotic.


Personal Reasons to Learn Math:

A person’s success in life depends on how well she can solve problems. No matter what her career or life situation, she’ll find satisfaction and reward by knowing how to tackle challenges head on. And while kids can’t possibly practice every problem they’ll ever have in life, there is a class in school that can help them learn how to think logically: math. Doing a math problem helps practice the problem-solving steps that apply to everyday situations: define the problem, think of ways to solve it, implement a solution, and evaluate the results.

Why do people go to the gym to ride the stationary bike? It’s not so that they can compete in the stationary bike Olympics, it’s to build up their endurance and strength to make the rest of their lives easier and more enjoyable. Math is like a gym for your brain. You may never need to use the quadratic equation in your adult life, but the process of learning it boosts your brainpower. By practicing how to solve mathematical problems, you optimize your ability to make complex decisions down the road.

In a speech entitled, “Teaching and Learning Algebra based on Neuroscience/Cognitive Science Research,” Math Professor Ed Laughbaum cited neuroscientist Dr. Richard Restak: “…intelligence is plastic and modifiable. All of our experiences result in the formation of neuronal circuits. The richer, more varied, and more challenging the experiences, the more elaborate the neuronal circuits.”[1] Studying abstract concepts like Algebra forces your brain to think in new ways, building the connections it will need to understand whatever problems the future might bring.

Practical Reasons to Learn Math:

Sometimes, not knowing basic math can cause a lot of trouble. Caryotakis offered this real-life example as a reason to learn basic math: “If your car has two gallons of gas, and thirty miles to travel, will you make it?” Not knowing the answer could lead to a long walk home.

Here are some other situations where making the wrong calculations could lead to embarrassing or even life-threatening consequences:

  • You’re going to visit Canada, and the forecast is for 32 degrees Celsius. Should you pack snow boots or flip-flops?
  • Your child needs fever medication at 3:00 in the morning. The package says to give two teaspoons to a sixty-pound child. If your child weighs forty pounds, how much should he have?
  • You and 8 friends went out to dinner, and they’ve asked you to divide the $177 bill. If you want to tip the waiter 20%, how much does each person owe?
  • You want to paint five bedrooms, each measuring 14 feet by 16 feet. How many gallons of paint will you need?
  • You want to get a thirty-year, fixed mortgage for $200,000. Is it better to get one at 5.6% with no points, or at 5.3% with two points?
  • Joe’s Peanut Butter costs $3.50 per pound. The store brand costs 23 cents per ounce. Which is a better deal?

It’s moments like those when adults wish they’d paid attention in math class.

Source: http://www.education.com/magazine/article/math-matters/

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary: A quick glance at two, unequal groups of paper clips leads most people to immediately intuit which group has more. In a new study, researchers report that practicing this kind of simple, instinctive numerical exercise can improve children’s ability to solve math problems.

A report of the study appears in the journal Cognition.
“We wanted to know how basic intuitions about numbers relate to mathematics development,” said University of Illinois psychology professor Daniel Hyde, who conducted the study with Saeeda Khanum, of Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, and Elizabeth Spelke, of Harvard University. “Specifically we wanted to know whether thinking intuitively about numbers, such as approximating and comparing sets without counting, helps in actually doing math.”
Getting children to think intuitively about numbers — by asking them to approximate or compare two sets of objects without counting — boosts their ability to do arithmetic, researchers report.
Credit: Photo courtesy of L. Brian Stauffer

To test this, the researchers asked first-graders to practice tasks that required them to approximate, or roughly evaluate the number of objects in a set without counting them. Other children did tasks such as comparing the brightness of two objects or adding the lengths of lines.

Children who practiced evaluating the number of objects performed better on arithmetic tests immediately afterward than did their counterparts who evaluated other qualities of objects, Hyde said.

“These results showed that brief practice with tasks requiring children to guess or intuit the number of objects actually improved their arithmetic test performance,” he said.

Additional experiments helped the team rule out other factors — such as greater motivation or level of cognitive engagement — that might contribute to the guessers’ enhanced math performance. The researchers also varied the difficulty of the arithmetic tests to see if the benefits of practicing intuitive judgments about the number of objects enhanced the children’s speed or accuracy, or both.

“For easier problems, where all children are very accurate, those who practiced engaging what we call their ‘intuitive sense of number’ performed roughly 25 percent faster than children practicing a control task,” Hyde said. “For more difficult problems, children engaging their intuitive sense of number scored roughly 15 percentage points higher than those practicing a control task. If this were a real quiz in school, these children would have scored about a letter grade and a half higher than those in the control conditions.”

Similar improvements were not seen on a verbal test, “suggesting the enhancing effect is specific to mathematics and is not due to general motivation or interest in the training task,” Hyde said.

“Previous studies have tested whether children who are better at intuitive number tasks also have higher math grades or perform better on math tests. There the answer is yes,” Hyde said. “Our study is the first to provide a causal link in children. We showed that practice on these kinds of tasks actually causes better math performance in children.”

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The original article was written by Diana Yates. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Practising mathematics actively







Children can play games involving numbers to practise concepts like addition and subtraction in a more casual environment.

While adults may take for granted that they use mathematical concepts involving money, measurements, shapes and patterns in routine tasks, parents can make these concepts more visible in their child’s environment. This would help to stimulate the child’s curiosity. The shapes of household objects could be used to help children identify shapes more readily.

Indeed, daily life contains a wealth of opportunities for children to apply mathematics concepts and get involved in family life. From the kitchen to the child’s room, from the car to the supermarket, all sorts of activities such as cooking from a recipe, sorting toys, tearing off the tabs of parking coupons and reading price labels can help to strengthen a child’s understanding of measurement, time, money and fractions. Through these activities, children will see how such concepts are being used in the real world all the time.

Parents could make it a point always to count from left to right (or right to left), to minimise confusion. In counting, they could emphasise the last counting word. “Do this by emphasising the last number you say: ‘One, two, three, four. There are four sweets.’ This helps your child to see that the last counting word you say tells you how many things there were.”







Colourful blocks and other toys or props can be used to prompt counting habits.

Examining the world, mathematically

But children should not only be prodded to react to the numbers and shapes around them, letting the child ask and answer his or her own questions. This could be done by letting the child compare if there is “more” or “less” of an object. For example, at the supermarket, the child could be asked whether there were more water melons than papayas on display, then the parent can guide the child to count and answer the question.

In the same vein, parents can deepen their child’s engagement with mathematics by giving them the opportunity to think independently. Looking at a sales advertisement in the newspaper together, parents can ask their child to apply their addition or subtraction skills to work out the savings for each item and figure out which item offers the most savings. With a deck of playing cards, parents can play variations of a game like Snap to test their child’s understanding of numbers. Traditionally, players call out “Snap!” when identical cards are turned up, but parents could tweak the rules so that “Snap!” applies when a card with a bigger or smaller value appears.

The more children develop confidence about mathematics through fun and games, the more comfortable they will feel as they learn more complex concepts.
importance of collaborating with their child’s school, in order to reinforce at home what the child has been learning and practising during mathematics lessons. While learning about the formal mathematics syllabus and keeping up with the child’s individual progress is useful, it is also suggested that parents participate in school-based workshops on how to teach different topics to their children at home. Parents can also volunteer their services for school programmes, so that they can witness their child’s learning for themselves.

Taking a walk in the neighbourhood with the child will provide opportunities for parents to get their child to identify patterns in numbers, shapes and colours – such as by looking at building numbers or the clothes worn by passers etc.

Learning of mathematics should always be made meaningful and fun.


By Kelly Trotter King, Educational consultant and President of Generation Think

After 16 years as an educational consultant, one of the most often heard phrases that makes me cringe is, “I hate math!”. This is generally followed by, “I’m just not a math person.” Students from ages 6-18 say it, and it comes from both girls and boys. Why do our students today “HATE” math so much? It doesn’t have to be this way. I hate that they hate math!
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Students hate math for three reasons: 1) They are intimidated by math. 2) No one has taken the time to help build their self-confidence in this subject. 3) Math is processed very differently by male and female brains which can account for differences in conceptual understanding. I believe loving or hating math is a nature AND nurture issue.

While all of these factors carry equal weight, #1 and #2 can be attributed to the nurture side of the learning coin. Studies have shown that success in math is due in small amount to IQ (nature); it is more often than not due to practice, persistence, and effort (nurture). Try these strategies to help improve your child’s perception of math, and his or her ability to master the discipline. Making a few small changes in how you approach math at home can make a marked difference in your child’s quantitative aptitude.
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• Parents, even if you are intimidated by math and do not feel it is a strength, try to avoid phrases like “I too am not a math person,” “It’s in the genes to not be good at math,” or “Don’t worry, you will never use Algebra/Geometry/Fractions/etc in real life — just get through it.” The more value you place on mastering math, the less of an “out” your child has to be intimidated by it. Stop providing him/her with excuses, and understand that your words and attitude can undermine your child’s math prowess!

• The fundamental math years occur between grades 3-6, so do not let any conceptual gaps slide during these years. If summer school or math tutoring can fill in those gaps and solidify the math foundation, DO IT during these years.

• How do you know there are math gaps? Low grades, low standardized test scores in math, and teacher input are all valuable barometers.

• The most fundamental math concepts are: long multiplication and long division, decimals, fractions, percents, discount/tax/tip/interest problems, ratios, proportions, and all the associated word problems to these concepts. From these, Algebra, Geometry, Trig, etc. are all derived.

• Find your student a math champion and advocate. Do not expect your student’s teacher to provide the needed extra math time. They are generally too overwhelmed and busy with 30+ students. Find a tutor, mentor, family member, etc. who can be your student’s “go-to” math helper.

• Make math real and include it in your daily family life. Cooking, shopping, negotiating allowances, comparing sports teams’ statistics, making investments, calculating percent increases in gas prices, making travel plans and calculating exchange rates, etc. all present learning opportunities for real life math. Involve your student in these activities.

• Have a ‘no calculator” zone. Put down the iPhone when calculating a tip at dinner–calculate it yourself and with your child. Students learn by watching you, so every time you look for a way out of doing the math, you are teaching them to do the same. Math-lazy parents breed math-lazy students.

• Utilize online math games and software often — especially during the summer months. Every math teacher I know has a favorite math site or program to recommend to students. Find out your teacher’s favorite site and incorporate it into your child’s computer time. Since students today are so technologically savvy, utilize their strength in the tech realm and include math learning in their online repertoire.

If you do even a little bit of research, you are bound to find endless studies and reports that tout the value add of a student who is math savvy. Some studies correlate potential income earnings to math competency, and others denote the strong connection between real life problem solving ability and math proficiency. All of these studies have valuable content and make plausible assertions. There is one recent study in particular though, that has piqued my interest.


Educational games in Mindspark serve two purposes.

1. Help a student understand and internalize a concept

2. Enables a student to have fun while doing this.

The reason we have introduced Games in Mindspark is because children tend to do something if they are having fun doing it. When making these games, in addition to creating fun, we make sure that the child learns something or overcomes a misconception or gets a lot of practice. These games would be related to a specific topic that they are doing or would be available to do as an activity even after completing this topic.