My Secret Math Brain

It is true, I have one. Despite years of vowing that I hated math and couldn’t do it, I do have a math brain that I find I can access at will. During my children’s early – read formative – years (which are now long since past or so I told myself so I could go back to not being good at math), I pretended that I was good at math to provide a strong example so they would not end up hating math (it is always the mom’s fault, you know).

Example of conversations in the early years:

Darling blonde daughter : “Mom, what is 400 plus 200?”

Me, while making dinner and answering the phone and chasing after the younger darling blonde daughter: “Umm…600?”

This goes on for 10 minutes, degree of difficulty remains the same.

Darling blonde girl: “Dad, you can’t stump Mom!”

Dad, grinning, “Nope, Mom is a whiz!” (we quietly snort laugh).

This was all good until the Peter Principle was reached and I couldn’t help with the math easily while making dinner, answering the telephone and chasing other darling blonde child. I am a strong believer in empowering girls to be anything they want to be – hopefully more Marie Curie than Kim Kardashian, just saying – and that girls do well having strong role models but if you are not strong in math, you have not relegated your daughters to a life of mathlessness. You don’t have to love calculus to encourage math strength. Also every child should be encouraged in Math and Science or History and Literature or Latin or anything they are interested in pursuing. Soapbox, much?  If you think they will not be good at math, guess what? They won’t be good in math. So don’t project your math fears, channel them. Okay. The preaching portion of the program is over…ish.

Personally, I do not walk around planning math lessons (some mommies do – really, I know some) but I do take advantage of them when they happen.

Lesson 1: You put an analog clock in the playroom and get a Judy Clock, too. What is a Judy Clock? [amazon-product image="51SuxgYgSsL._SL160_.jpg" type="image"]B0007KK0EE[/amazon-product]You talk about the time, you let them play with the Judy clock to match the time and progress to showing the time on the hand-held clock. Some day they may own a wrist watch and it may not be digital.

Lesson 2: In the grocery store, you measure fruits and vegetables on the scale and look at the price per pound and – voila – you have a math problem. Sure, it takes hours to shop this way so either make sure you have time (no rushing these math moments) or limit (yes, please limit the number of math problems you allow your children to do) each child to only one or two estimations. My mom used to add up everything in the grocery cart as she shopped – to keep track cost-wise but also I believe to exercise brain power – ours and hers. Have your kids do this, too. It’s fun to see who is closest to the actual total. Really it is. Try throwing in a budget lesson, too.

Lesson 3: Build with Legos, Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs (remember those?). Play with modeling clay, puzzles, board games, toys that come apart, writing and drawing materials, paint (all types – relax – there are tons of washable products). [amazon-product image="51JG3GaCiaL._SL160_.jpg" type="image"]B00004TFRN[/amazon-product]

Lesson 4: Do origami. Here is a link to the New Art Center that has a class for children in Origami. From the course description: Students will learn about visualization, spatial reasoning, and geometric modeling, and finish class with beautifully made art pieces.

Other resources: I found this great site Brain Cake – it is fun and engaging and a terrific resource. A bit from the BrainCake website: Brain Cake -capability momThe Girls, Math & Science Partnership’s mission is to engage, educate, and embrace girls as architects of change. Working with girls age 11 – 17 and their parents, teachers, and mentors, we draw organizations, stakeholders, and communities together in an effort to ensure that girls succeed in math and science. Welcome to the Girls, Math & Science Partnership, a program of Carnegie Science Center.

And, me? How am I accessing my math brain? Well, it happened like this – I was asked an algebra question (the homework is getting tougher) and figured it out by going through a tutorial on TenMarks. Yes, I did. Hey, I’ve watched tutorials on HTML and sat through webinars (I know) on other fun topics…what makes you think I won’t sit through one on Systems of Equations and Inequalities?  So anyway, there is a free trial that you can customize by grade and topic (yes, for the free trial they let you do this). Very helpful and I used it to solve the algebra problem in question. I have to say that the site is well-organized, the program is thorough and there are hints and do-over worksheets  (gotta love do-overs!) if you need them. But most helpful to me was the step-by-step video that walks you through the problem. I know, right? Great.  I have to say that I was not sure we could go without a math tutor this year – both Middle School and High School math? Yikes. Knock wood – so far so good.

Here are some links to some well-researched articles. You are welcome.

From NPR Girls’ Math Skills Equal To Boys’, Study Finds by Nell Greenfieldboyce

From ARS Technica Female teachers transmit math anxiety to female students by Casey Johnston

From The New York Times Making Math Lessons as Easy as 1, Pause, 2, Pause … By WINNIE HU

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