Mathematics isn’t always the most popular subject and is sometimes greeted rather too readily with the cry, ‘I can’t do Maths!’ This phrase is banned in my classroom as it is far better to say, ‘I can’t do this YET.’ But Mathematics can so easily become enjoyable and not too scary! Here are Year 4’s top tips for improving the enjoyment of mathematics:
- Abstract + Real Life Situations = ENJOYMENT
Mathematics can be an abstract concept with numbers that mean so much more when concrete apparatus is used and when given a meaningful context. Giving numbers real life scenarios helps children to understand what numbers and procedures mean. They can start to visualise and imagine the situation and it starts to make sense. For example, questions about non-unit fraction can easily worry children. However, give them the same fractions question using a pizza and they may well be able to find a 2/8 of the whole. Instead of being lost in a sea of numbers, they can interact with the mathematics in a practical real life setting and positive thinking starts rolling. At home you could give your child objects such as buttons or smarties to use and help with topics such as fractions.
- Mathematics + Exciting Context = ENJOYMENT
Relating Mathematics to exciting situations can also create a buzz in the classroom as it gives the children a purpose. Recently, the girls have been zoo keepers working out the weight of food for a given number of animals; conservationists looking after turtles’ eggs and trying to find the endangered ‘prime’ number turtles and soon they will be bakers rounding ingredients before measuring them to create krispie cakes. All these activities give the girls a tangible reason for using Mathematics. They can start to understand how our teaching can be applied to their lives in practical ways. As they understand that Mathematics is everywhere they will start to use it more naturally. In Art the girls had to buy resources of their choice to create a bridge and they naturally used column subtraction to work out change and how much money they had left. This can continue outside the classroom too by encouraging your daughters to work out the cost of shopping, the amount of pizza everyone will get at a party or pay themselves at the shops. In this subtle way, Maths becomes more natural and more enjoyable.
- Mathematics + Accepting it is Tricky = ENJOYMENT
Sometimes children think that it is important to finish quickly and that if they don’t know the answer or cannot work it out fast enough, then it is all too easy to give up because ‘it’s impossible’. Mathematics doesn’t always have quick answers and we need to develop resilience and the ability to ‘guess and check’ or to work through in a logical, sequential manner. We need to offer reassurance that it is okay for mathematics to be ‘hard, that it is okay to need thinking time and it is also quite possible that the answer will only be reached via a number of different steps. When a task has been challenging and it has been finally conquered there is a true sense of accomplishment.
In Year 4, some girls have been completing ‘Nrich’ problems which are pretty tricky but, through practice, the girls know that they need to give their brains time to process information and to think about what they need to do. Once they achieve the correct answer, their faces light up! Some children find it more challenging than others to learn the multiplication tables but there are strategies they can use to help themselves. They may need to write out a given table they have difficulty memorising using repeated addition to reach the answer. This is perfectly acceptable and allows the child who is struggling to commit facts to memory to see that there are ways to accommodate this difficulty. If all mathematics was easy, it would be boring. If your child is finding homework tricky, do not accept statements that ‘it’s impossible,’ instead reassure that it is okay to find it tricky and encourage them to conquer the challenge.
- Mathematics + a Little Fun = ENJOYMENT
Games are a fantastic way to engage children at home and at school. There are many great websites that involve children using all sorts of mental mathematical strategies. Also a little bit of competition can challenge a child in a positive way but do remember that all children are at different stages in their learning. Competitions are not about comparing themselves to others but about competing with themselves. For example we have Mental Mathematics winners and they are the girls who have beaten their previous score. Also team competitions are very popular as the girls use all their different skills to work together and gain points. They start to recognize their strengths as they contribute to their team. At home they could keep a chart of times tables’ scores and gain a reward for beating their last score or they could play Mathematics games with friends and family.
- Mathematics + A Bit of Thought into What we Say = ENJOYMENT
You just need to watch children play to understand how much children look up to adults. I often hear children repeat phrases that I have used in class. What we say as adults is a powerful tool as it can start to shape a child’s opinion or view on a topic. Therefore, comforting a child through complaining about Mathematics and how you hated it as a child may not be the best way forward. Let’s encourage children through positive language and emphasise that mathematics is all around us and it can be exciting.
At Burgess Hill Girls we believe that enjoyment is an important part of learning. When children are engaged and excited by a topic the learning becomes memorable and lasting. We implement this in our everyday teaching and Mathematics is a topic that girls look forward too.
By Miss Bronte MacDonald, Junior School Teacher