Raise your hands if you like math! I’m guessing very few hands went up, and that’s such a shame. Math has a dreaded reputation in most circles, and it’s especially loathed by many grade school students. Yet it needn’t be as torturous as most regard it to be.
I must admit that I myself fall into this category of loathing math. Math is right up there next to Lord Voldemort on the list of things I’d least like to encounter in my day. I’m one of those people whose eyes will glaze over whenever asked to perform a math problem without a calculator. Yet some kids actually think math is fun. I’m suspicious these children are actually space aliens taking on human form, but then again, maybe they just know something I don’t.
I’m only half kidding of course. Yet despite my own math aversion, over the years I’ve had to find ways to make learning math more interesting and fun for children. There are two main impediments that get in the way of children liking math. The first is that math seems so disconnected from everyday life. For many kids it appears abstract and intangible; a chore to be done with very little purpose. The other problem is that kids find math difficult, usually because teachers struggle to convey the concepts in a way that makes sense. The easier math is, the more children will enjoy it.
Whether you’re an experienced teacher or a homeschooling parent whose eyes glaze over when presented with a math problem just like the rest of us, the information herein will help you teach kids the math skills they need in the most enjoyable way possible. Maybe your kids can become some of those freakish aliens who actually like math.
Everyday ways to make math learning fun
In addition to the ideas we provide in our various sections, here are some general tips to make math learning fun that can be applied to pretty much any math subject:
Find ways to relate math concepts to sports. Kids love sports, and the same child who disdains doing percentages on a worksheet will often eagerly perform the same skills when applied to batting averages or completion percentages. All types of math skills can be applied to sports, and it will make the learning more enjoyable for many students.
Regularly discuss how people use math in enticing or appealing ways. For example, businessmen use math to determine how much money they make, astronauts and space explorers use math to navigate, coaches and ball club managers use math in assessing players, farmers use math in calculating yield percentages, and so forth. Consistently make it apparent that people use math in their everyday life to accomplish all sorts of cool and desirable things.
Create a reward or incentive system that is built around math. For example, award points in the form of mathematical equations (Jessica, you get 8 minus 2 points today; John, you earned 3 plus 5 points), and award the points based on mathematical performance:
- Award a point for every answer they get right on a worksheet
- Casually award points for their participation or attentiveness in class
- Provide math-related activities they can do to earn extra points
- And so forth.
Keep a list of points on the classroom wall and let them trade in points periodically for various prizes. Incentive systems such as this can have a powerful effect on children. It’s a way of tying math in with something pleasurable and enticing in their mind, and this mental connection can persist for many years to come, causing them to regard math in a much more positive way than they otherwise would have.