Mention the words "math" and "fun" in one breath and you might prompt a few raised eyebrows from those around you. But the truth remains that math actually can be fun. All the same, a negative view of math tends to prevail in America; even in the latest flurry over STEAM-based learning initiatives.
For one thing, too many parents' own experiences with math were less than stellar. Similarly, teachers may feel anxious about motivating youngsters in their classrooms if they aren't already huge math fans themselves.
What to do?
Don't worry. Here are a few ways you can help children (and yourself) see math as a fun experience right from the start.
Embrace game-based learning
As we've mentioned before on the Imagine This! blog, many educators and parents still fear that video games and game-based learning might not live up to the hype surrounding them.
Sure, kids are engaged by all the visuals, characters, and challenges in such games. But will they learn lasting skills? Will their initial interest yield positive results at assessment time and long afterward?
These are valid questions, and current data are encouraging on both points. Of course, the world of educational technology is evolving alongside its usage data, so continued study will be critical.
But for now, specialists from curriculum designers to brain scientists see game-based learning as a big piece of the educational pie when it comes to math (and other subjects besides).
In an increasingly technological era of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and other future innovations depend on math. Meanwhile, game-based learning ensures both student engagement and a competitive edge in the world to come.
But let's get back to the focus of this post. Remember, game-based learning is fun (hence, the game element). Why not jump on board?
Yes, you can (and should) ask tough questions about the game-based software options you investigate. Just don't dismiss each option until you've seen firsthand what it can do for kids.
Enter the exciting world of math games
What if there were a way to effectively teach youngsters multiplication, division, and other basic math facts in a fun way? Well guess what--there are. Numerous apps, digital games, and websites abound these days.
Case in point: Imagine Math Facts (by Imagine Learning) is a great example of a fun and challenging math game that kids love.
Amazing 3D graphics? Check. Ongoing challenges that motivate young learners? Check. Math fact automaticity in less time than traditional methods? Check.
Of course, many non-digital games can also promote math skills. Researchers from the University of Maryland and Carnegie Mellon give Chutes and Ladders a big stamp of approval for helping pre-K kids improve math skills.
Are you a homeschooler? If so, don't neglect Pinterest and other sites that offer free math-based activities. A few refined searches in your browser are all you need to get started.
Don't forget to try some of these fun math games at home! They might just become new favorites.
Show kids the 'why' of math
Think kids should wait until they're older for lessons on basic finance?
Not so! Even young children can learn to sort a few coins and contribute to the budget. Older kids can help locate prices for grocery items and be involved in tallying simple sums.
Go ahead--let them run that lemonade stand and learn a little math at the same time. Encourage even little ones to help plan the amount of food they'll need at an upcoming birthday party.
When kids understand that math isn't just theoretical, they automatically feel more interested in math as a learning activity.
Read fun stories about math
Think that reading and math are separate skills? Not necessarily. Why not naturally combine the subjects by reading stories involving math? The following list is only a starting point:
- 7 x 9 = Trouble!
- The Math Wiz
- 20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street
- Let's Count Goats!
- Inch by Inch
Hold informal competitions and offer rewards
Even young children learning to distinguish visual patterns are learning math. Ditto for activities on sequence (think building a tower of blocks) or sorting.
No matter the activity, you can reward even small accomplishments and help children know that they just completed a fun math-related task.
Of course, if kids are involved with Imagine Math Facts, they'll receive rewards as part of the game, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't also love some recognition in or outside of class. It could be something simple like a small treat or an inexpensive toy.
Sure, math is a skill that takes some time and patience to master. But once children associate foundational math skills with play, they'll carry those pleasurable feelings forward, enjoying future mathematical challenges instead of fearing them.
How do you make math fun for the kids around you? Share your ideas in the comments below.