Do you get all worked up about math?
I believe that no other school subject gets parents worked up in a fevered sweat like math does. Our modern public education systems insists on students completing a rigorous no goshbegone nonsense math curriculum. Unless you have a natural talent for math or just do okay in it, modern math learning has become a real mental obstacle course for many kids.
Can you resonate with this hypothetical mom?
At the beginning of the homeschool year, a nervous hypothetical homeschool mom turns and looks at her kids from behind a mountain of math books and curriculum. She says to her kids with a forced fake laugh, "Okay, kids! Let's all lock hands and hold on!" Throughout the school year, the mom proceeds to run and drag her kids through a year's worth of math curriculum they all hate.
In a panic, she sometimes switches out math books for another curriculum trying to replace boredom but instead gets responses of terror from the kids. Then she tries to quickly switch out the terror invoking workbooks for something else that yields a more subdued response from the kids, albeit, lack luster learning.
At the end of the homeschool year, mom looks back at her kids who have metaphorically gone through the math curriculum gauntlet and have become a psychological bloody, scratched up, bruised mess mathematically speaking! They've just finished the yearlong "math obstacle course" yielding a whole slew of math phobias from fear, anger, and antagonism, to boredom on a good day.
How can you shift your family from math phobia to falling in love with math?
Truth be told, I had developed math phobia for the higher maths, most especially algebra in middle school. I could not make any sense of it! I got so angry and dreaded algebra so much. In the 7th and 8th grades, I just barely scraped by passing it with a C. My math attitude didn't change much through college.
What shifted for me around math including Algebra was when my friend, a wellness teacher and creative educator, Don Tolman came to my local area and did a series of workshops pointing out how math is found everywhere. He taught us about the Golden ratio, the famed proportion of beauty used since ancient Greece found in Greek art and architecture. He taught us about nature's most common patterns, fractals (branching), circles, squares, spirals and hexagons. I was totally wowed by things I should have been taught and shown outdoors while I was in kindergarten. Better yet, it would have been great to have been shown all this while I was in diapers!
Don's teachings ignited a love and passion in me for seeing the connections there are in math especially in nature. In 2003, I went on a 7-year photographic journey looking for nature's numbers and patterns and sharing what I discovered in nature with my private school students. During this time, my students and I fell in love with math found in the real world. I was inspired and created my MathArt yearlong course for kids.
What is MathArt?
MathArt is a unique online study of math using history as the backbone. Through history, we look at math starting with ancient Babylon and Greece. We explore math in art, architecture, music, science, literature, and the natural world. You can join us for my MathArt online courses through my 1-year membership below.
1. Look around where you are now and find connections with math
Find math connections right now where you're sitting reading this blog post. If you're sitting down, notice the dimensions of what you're sitting on. It's all math! Anywhere and everywhere you look, there's math. Now have your kids try the same exercise at home. Find numbers, geometric patterns, and measurements all around your house. Look at furniture, artwork, carpet, knick-knacks, and toys. Find anything and everything you can related to math. Make this activity into a fun "I spy" game! I spy something red that has four legs that are two feet long each! Oh! I spy, the red chair in the living room!
2. Find Nature's Patterns in Your Backyard.
Go outside into your backyard and look around for patterns in nature. Take pictures of them. You can do this activity throughout the day. When the math workbooks get tough, take a break and go look for nature's most common patterns right in your backyard. Some of the most common patterns include fractals (veined), circles, spheres, spirals, and hexagons.
3. Don't be afraid to veer away from the math curriculum
One of parents' biggest fears is that their kids will miss important concepts in math. But, really, all concepts for math are found right in everyday real life. Learn to be a math bloodhound together as a family and "sniff out" division, multiplication, geometry, addition and subtraction in real everyday life. Take a calculator to the grocery store and have the kiddos add up food just before they're placed in the grocery cart.
4. Do math art projects
The Internet is an ocean of resources. This includes finding fun math "art" type hands-on projects the Kids can do. In most of my MathArt lessons, I aim to include a unique art project related to math. I've seen some fascinating MathArt projects from my students over the years. Check out some of my students projects below.
5. Follow your child's learning interests and find math in them
Notice and explore what your child is most passionate about learning. This is especially fun when it's non-academic. Look for the math in it with them. Bring what they're passionate about to life even more by showing them the math connections. If they're beside themselves with enthusiasm about it, have them create some kind of a project showing the connections their passion has with math.
I've had many students that are madly in love with gaming. I have found that connecting with kids around their favorite video games opens the door showing them all the ways they have math in them. We do a math treasure together. There are so many aha moments when kids are already passionate about a thing such as video games, which are riddled with math.
6. Go on a Patterns in Nature Photographic Hike
This ties in nicely with number two, but, this activity is more ambitious. After all, this is your family's opportunity to get away from the books, yet still be learning. Grab your day packs, cameras (or cell phones...whatever you use to take pictures), a journal, and take off for your local nature trail. Go on a patterns in nature treasure hunt and take pictures of as many patterns in nature that you can find. Have the kids develop this further and create collages or cards showcasing their beautiful photos of nature's mathematical glories.
Grab my free patterns in nature treasure hunt template below to use both in your backyard and on your hike.
7. Study math with history
We study math history in our MathArt class. Start with pre-historic times when humanity learned math in the caves. People started doing math very early by making marks on bones! Click here and check out Mathigon's very cool interactive timeline.
8. Observe your pets and their unique maths
Children love pets! What more mathematical fun could be had then looking at how math is found with your pet? Look at your pet's coat patterns. Get out your pet's food and read over the ingredients to find percentages and ratios. Weigh your pet. How much does it cost per year to keep your pet? Have a look at the fun video below to get an idea of animal coat patterns you might find among you and your neighbors pets.
9. Look for math in your kids' favorite sports
Do you kids love basketball, football, golf? These games are real life examples of maths from the geometrics that make up a basketball court or football field to the physics behind snow boarding. Create a photo collage of your kids playing their favorite sport. Take pictures of your children illustrating or pointing out the maths in some way appropriate to the sport.
10. Create your own personal family math curriculum
This might sound like a daunting task, but, it doesn't have to be. Just save your kids work and take lots of pictures and videos of projects and activities they do. Journal about what you do and keep it all in a folder or binder. Add to it each year and you'll have plenty of math learning treasures to refer to and dip into an build upon for years to come. You'll be able to continue to share it with your family and other homeschool families in your local co-op for years to come.
Seeing the real life connections there are with math is a sure way to help cure a child of math phobias. For me, it was seeing the beauty of math in nature and art. For your child, it might be seeing the math connections there are in their latest favorite video games.
Please share your creative math explorations with me in the comments below. I LOVE reading about out of the box stuff homeschoolers do to learn math and make it enlivening!
Gloria aka NatureGlo