“Mathematics is the most beautiful and most powerful creation of the human spirit,” Stefan Banaszak once said. Needless to say, that sentiment is NOT share by most parents today.
But teacher and Youtube sensation Eddie Woo hopes to change that viewpoint. Since 2012, he’s had millions upon millions of views on his lessons, and he’s just released his new book, Woo’s Wonderful World of Maths. Eddie’s passionate about instilling an interest, and even wonder, for maths in kids and parents alike.
“Once something is proven true in mathematics, it’s proven true forever. And I think that’s really beautiful.”
Eddie assures us it’s never too late to change your mindset. He wasn’t a massive fan of maths until university, and that’s when he started to reframe his thought process around it.
“I figured, okay, really intelligent people throughout history really dived away down into the rabbit hole and gone into the depths of mathematics. Maybe there's more to it than I originally realised ... and that sort of set me on this journey to learn more about it.”
Listen to Eddie on Kinderling Conversation:
So to that end, here’s how to instil some passion for maths into your kids, even if you're not a massive fan of it yourself.
1. We are all ‘maths people’
“There’s a bit of a misconception that there’s 'maths people' and 'non-maths people',” Eddie says. “The research shows us there isn't a physiological difference between people who have a knack for mathematics, or those who don't. It's that willingness to persevere.”
To avoid this emotional recoil that a lot of us experience from maths, we need to provide an environment where kids can fail, and then approach it as something to be learnt from.
2. Watch your language
Hands up if you’ve ever said, "I hate maths" or "I was never good at maths"! There’s sure to be a whole bunch of us out there. And sadly, Eddie says he’s seen that this can be really damaging to a kid’s enthusiasm for learning.
“It comes from a good intention. We want to make people feel okay and not intimated by the subject, so we kind of show them, 'Yeah don't worry about it'.”
But really, kids don’t need to be given an easy out, and they’ll quickly stop applying themselves to understanding difficult subjects if we do.
“They don't need an excuse from us to stop, and it ends up being quite fatal to their ability to persevere and appreciate and learn these patterns and ideas.”
3. Encourage an openness to maths
Eddie believes that it’s very important to cultivate an openness to numbers from day one.
“Parents really need to be open to showing the patterns and shapes and numbers that are around us in the world,” he says.
If we avoid exposing children to that, it would be same as never reading to your kids, or never putting on music.
Figuring out ways that mathematical concepts can connect to a child’s world is a great way to do this, through games like noughts and crosses, chess, Monopoly, and even a deck of cards.
4. But don’t set expectations too young
Eddie assures parents that there’s no particular age when children should start learning addition and subtraction.
“Everyone is different, and it's true some people have a natural affinity for numbers. I don't think there is necessarily one age where you [need to know] times tables.”
5. Contribute to changing the social tropes around mathematics
Think about movies set in schools. Whenever we see a scene about maths, it’s either portraying a very bored or miserable kid, or the nerds (think Mean Girls). Eddie says this sort of Hollywood treatment perpetuates the cultural and social myths that maths can’t be fun.
“It's very easy for those toxic, destructive and discouraging mindsets to persevere if we don't think more deliberately about them,” he says. “It's a trope … a cultural stereotype that we've fallen into.”
“We have to be careful about the active role we play in helping form our children's mindsets about maths.”
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