HOW WE CAN FIX MATH EDUCATION THROUGH PLAY
Mathematics is the tool to supercharge your commonsense. And that’s where it starts. You create ownership through play. It sounds like a counter intuitive thought because of the long existing cultural bias that playing and learning don’t go hand in hand. But in truth, playing is nature’s way of helping you how to learn.
The power and beauty of math can change your life. It can either be the best of time or can be the worst. It can be a wonderful journey of fun-filled discoveries or a descent into despair. The sad reality is math miseducation is so common that we hardly take note of it. It has been generally accepted that math is all about repetition and memorization of disjointed technical facts. And it’s not surprising to see students feeling unmotivated.
To quote philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes — ‘I think therefore I am’. What did he mean by it? A thinking being is someone who can conceive and understand; one, who wills and refuses, affirms and doubts, imagines and perceives. And that’s what is expected in every math class every day.
You need to build a positive attitude towards math from an early age. Your child needs elementary school math help, through programs where they are guided into treating math in a fun and playful manner. That’s why so many after-school programs emphasise on nudging rather than pushing when it comes to mastering math. Kumon for instance puts emphasis on the ‘just-right’ level of learning through taking small steps rather than big leaps. Offering a great environment for self-learning, it helps kids understand the mathematical process at every step and critically asses their past mistakes. As a result, the child develops immense reasoning and critical thinking skills that enable them to sort out even tricky equations in the long run.
Einstein once said that the highest form of research is play. That’s why a Math teacher who lets their students play with Math gives them the gift of ownership. After all, Maths is not all about following the rules. It’s about exploring and looking for clues, playing and at times even breaking things down. Learning how to play with math can make you feel like discovering the doorway to a wonderland- a land where you still move along a designated path but a path you enjoy walking towards.
So if you are looking for a way to nurture the mathematical instinct in your child, play is the answer. A home that’s full of blocks and games and puzzles and play is one where mathematical thinking can flourish. The aim should never be to misuse math in order to create passive rule-followers. Let your child question the conventions. Let them dive into the details. Why is 1+1 = 2 and not 11? Let them argue. It will only help them develop their critical thinking and reasoning skills. Math offers immense potential and is a great asset in teaching the next generation to not just meet the future but greet it with curiosity, creativity and courage. And if every child gets the chance to experience its true beauty, it wouldn’t sound very strange if some day every child says — ‘I love math’.