How do we foster a love for learning? When we teach children to read we share colorful picture books filled with exciting stories. In science, we do lively and engaging hands-on experiments, using fun props such as soda bottles and bouncing balls. Yet how do we teach math? Often, intimidating numbers and symbols cover the board. Kids break out in a sweat trying to memorize formulas and multiplication tables. Is this encouraging a love for the process of solving problems and seeking solutions?
Making Math Fun
Fortunately, math doesn’t have to be this way. It can be made engaging, entertaining, and even exciting! We need to refocus our efforts and emphasize relevance and understanding, rather than number crunching. To accomplish these things, I believe in integrating math with language and art. Words and images are the keys to communicating mathematical reasoning and insight. These tools can connect math with a world of things — real and imaginary — that matter to kids and have the power to make math intuitive, clear, and meaningful. It is through these connections that math can become a familiar, friendly, and fun part of life.
Real Life Math
Numbers and equations are far more interesting when they represent real-life specifics. For example, the problem "What is 3 x 4?" can be posed as "If there are 3 pods with 4 whales in each, how many whales are there altogether?" As kids begin to visualize whales swimming through the ocean, the math becomes much more specific and rich. Vivid examples also help to connect math with other subject areas. Here, science comes into play, and the word "pod" can lead to a discussion of similar words such as "gaggle" and "flock." Math trivia, such as the weight of a blue whale (190 tons), can make the experience even more memorable. You can also make art and writing connections. Young students might draw and color an ocean scene while older kids try poetry.
"I’ve always found it very odd,
that whales and peas can share a pod.
For one is tiny, sweet and green,
the other big and sometimes mean.
I guess it simply goes to show,
in life you really never know!"
When kids enjoy learning, they have a chance to love math. So let’s make it fun for them — Write now!
Award-Winning Author Greg Tang
"The Grapes of Math was my first book and I’m working on a series that I hope will give kids a better understanding of math, from counting all the way through calculus. My second book Math For All Seasons came out in February, and it was followed by The Best of Times in August.
Next year I have three books coming out, Math Appeal in the Spring, Math-terpieces in the Summer, and Math Fables in the Fall. I really enjoy writing these books because they combine my love of math, words, art, games and teaching. I hope kids and adults have as much fun solving my problems as I have creating them." — Greg Tang
Many thanks to Greg Tang for his permission to display this article.