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Fun ways to help your children love math
on July 21, 2001
I hate math. Memories of trying to understand long division in fourth grade can still make me squirm. Algebra was a lost year of my life - I had no idea what the teacher was talking about. Wouldn't you just guess I'd end up with a son who could add two digit numbers in his head before he started kindergarten? (I'm over 40 and I still can't do it very well) He even thought it was fun to do so.
You can probably guess that the normal elementary school math curriculum did not thrill him. Fortunately, early on, his kindergarten teacher lent me her copy of this book, and suggested that it might help him get started on understanding some higher math concepts, while still being age appropriate. The words "higher math" were not exactly music to the ears of a math phobe like me. But within a couple of weeks, after trying out a few games, I was hooked, and bought my own copy.
During the time he was in elementary school, I think we did at least 3/4 of the activities in the book, not because I thought he should, but because he wanted to. And, to my enormous surprise, so did I. The games and activities in this book are so intriguing that even I began to develop a sense of what it must feel like to really love math. (And, amazingly enough, I even got a little better at basic arithmetic.) Several of the games were so much fun, they became obsessions. We played them day after day.
My younger child, who recently finished kindergarten, doesn't remotely share her brother's love of numbers, but this year I dug out my old copy of the book to see if it might get her more interested. Sure enough, it worked. The games of logic and the games designed to develop rapid mental arithmetic skills that so fascinated her brother don't really interest her. In fact, most of the book is still way beyond her skill level. But I've found quite a few games that are appropriate for a child still struggling to add and subtract single digit numbers. (She says they're more fun than the math games they play at school). And there are several activities (Tangrams, and Color Designs, for instance) that take advantage of her love of art to help her understand math better. At the end of kindergarten, my daughter told me that her favorite school subject was math. I have no doubt that her exposure to Family Math games had a lot to do with that. And I have no doubt that we'll be using this book more and more over the next few years.