By ADAM SPENCER.
Every week seems to bring another sad story about mathematics in Australia and especially women in mathematics. Falling rates of final years students doing maths, lower enrolments in physics at university and the truly bizarre and galling tampon ad that suggested the latest Libra product “absorbs more than you ever did in maths class” all paint a bleak picture.
Well I’m proud to say I’m bringing up two girls, the elder of whom love maths and the younger of which seems well on the way.
Good on you geek-boy I hear you scream. You’ve got an unfair head start…Of course your girls will be mini Einsteins. What about the non-nerds amongst us?
But I genuinely believe that any parent can raise a boy or girl who loves numbers. Like having a child who plays piano, draws beautifully or can shoot a netball like Cath Cox its all about them working at it and enjoying putting in that work.
And you can’t start too soon. Right from the earliest age get your kids working on the very basics of numeracy. Simple arithmetic skills are crucial.
Kids who can answer correctly right from the start develop real confidence and when the concepts get a little bit harder they can really concentrate on the more challenging ideas and not be worried that they will do everything ok but stuff up the last bit because they suck at times tables.
Here’s 4 ideas to help your child get off to a good start with maths and then fulfil their potential.
1) Never answer a maths question for your kids.
The correct answer to “Mum what’s 5 + 8” is not “13”, it’s “that’s a great question. Lets try and work it out. I’ll hold up 5 fingers, how many do you need to hold up for us to bust this?”
2) Find maths everywhere .
You shouldn’t make your child feel they live in the real world and occasionally have to head off into “maths world” for a while then come back. Mathematics is everywhere. When we eat out, my girls don’t even need me to ask these days – when we’ve finished they ask the staff “excuse me how much will that cost” and when they tell me “$48.40” (2 coffees and a piece of toast in the inner west of Sydney!) they’ll see what money I take out, say 3 twenties and work out “we should get $11.60 change”.