Tuesday, November 15, 2011

you know more math than you think

Do you ever feel like math is a foreign language?

Think about how it feels to learn another language, or to be in a place where people are speaking a language you don’t understand.

Now think about how a child learns to speak their mother tongue (the language their parents speak). If a child is exposed to a language from the time they are born, and if someone interacts with them on a regular basis in that language, the child will eventually learn to speak that language. Are children born speaking a language? Maybe baby talk – but mostly they just cry.

Turns out, the ability to learn math is programmed in us similar to the way the ability to learn a language is programmed in us.

You can read about a study that was done on this subject here.

In the article, they mentioned that a lot of Euclidean Geometry (lines, space, shapes – all that basic stuff) concepts were “innate” in members of a remote tribal community in the Amazon who had no formal training in geometry. They got as many answers right about geometry as formally educated Americans.

Something that was interesting, however, was that younger children (5 and 6 years old) didn’t know the answers. The researchers weren’t sure why, but I have a hypothesis.

Since math is similar to a foreign language, and young children don’t often understand the concepts of grammar, it make sense that they also wouldn’t understand the concepts of math especially if math has not been “spoken” to them regularly. This goes back to the principle of teaching “pre-math” skills by exposing young children to concepts like classifying, sorting, number conservation, counting, etc.

If you want your child to understand math concepts better, speak math with them! Try to make it a point to “speak math” with your child every day. Whether it is by sorting and classifying, or by talking about shapes around you, or multiplying a recipe, or talking about how “steep” the stairs are, speak math with the children in your life!

How do you “speak math” with the children in your life?

If you have questions, you can ask them in the comments, email me, ask on Facebook, or on Twitter. I am on Facebook and Twitter live from 3:00-3:30 pm Mon-Thurs MDT.

No comments:

Post a Comment