Having Fun

The “having fun” part…

The Math Fairy is asking everyone to make a pledge to have fun with math every day! And making a pledge to do math every is a good challenge but not an impossible one because, if you really think about it, we’re all doing math all the time! It’s the “having fun” part that can be a bit tricky.

Here’s why I think having fun with math is hard for us, especially us parents. Many of us, as I have mentioned before, tend to think of mathematics as solely calculation. And, when we are helping our children with mathematical calculations or watching them ponder said calculations, or worse yet struggle, then we automatically jump in and begin to instruct them. Certainly there is nothing wrong with helping kids with their mathematical calculations. The difficulty is that we must remember that mathematics is a whole world of understanding, creativity and vision. Calculation is only a small part of this and, sadly, instruction from ones parents in mathematics is rarely associated with “fun”. Think about your experiences as a child. My father often tried to help me with my math. I usually cried and he usually moaned in frustration. Hardly “fun”! And I have a fun dad. It was just that working on math together was more about performance and grasping something quickly than it was about exploration or creativity.

The Math Fairy would like to suggest that we separate instruction in mathematical calculation from the having fun with math. You could do that lots of ways: you could set aside time to work on homework and then another time to play a game or do an art project; you could designate one adult in the household as the instructor and one as the game player (although please don’t get into a fistfight over who gets the be the game player!); you could designate a time of day when instruction takes place and then another, completely separate time of the day when you do something fun with math. The important idea here is that doing math together and having fun with math together are not always the same thing. In our well-meaning, lovingly intentioned way we might inadvertently be killing the love of maths in our children by associating math with performance on calculations.

Think about ways you can “have fun”!

The Math Fairy just went out with her son on an autumn afternoon walk. We made patterns out of leaves and rocks and branches and took photos of them with the cell phone. It was fun! We had some great conversations about why we thought something made a pattern and why it didn’t. Most of all, we had fun seeing mathematical patterns in the world around us. Try it!

Have fun with math every day!