On Saturday, we had a jam packed family day.  With ski team at the Weston Ski Track and piano lessons at two different times on Sundays and my husband training for an Ironman we don’t have much family time an any given day, so this was a real treat.

We started off with Dads Do Good at a math event.  My children both enjoy math, or what they know as math, which involves a lot of puzzles, games and manipulatives since they are in Kindergarten and 2nd grade.  What’s not to love?

Going into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect aside from trying out some new math apps and games.  The children’s corner had some great manipulatives (chain links, unifix cubes, pattern blocks). In addition there was a huge selection of children’s mathematical picture books.

On the panel, were Emmanuel Schanzer, Doctoral Student at Harvard and founder of Bootstrap, Ethan Danahy of Tufts University, Kristina Buenafe Boston Public School Math teacher, Archana Dubey parent and owner of math and reading tutoring program in Waltham, and Lindsay Wurst Editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The games the children explored included Singapore Bar Method Math and Number Stax both by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  My youngest watched the older kids on the Wii play Carmen San Diego‘s mystery adventure game with math built into it.

Discussions with the panel all highlighted the value and the limitations of everything from apps and games to parent, teacher, and tutor help.  It was unanimous that screen time cannot replace face to face math discussions.

Whether you have a fear of math from a math trauma in your own education, or you just don’t remember ever learning math the way your children are it was clear that accepting limitations is something we all need to do and just get over.

I think the problem is that math is a subject that encompasses more than arithmetic or computation but it is all clumped under the subject “math”.  It would be like putting foreign languages, spelling, writing, handwriting, history, reading, reading comprehension all under “language arts”.  Not only does math not capture the breadth of the subject but, as Emanuel Schanzer stated, “Algebra is not a continuation of arithmetic just as creative writing is not a continuation of spelling”.

I think that’s why so often people have the experience “I used to be really good at math but…” or “I used to hate math but…”  For example, my father’s a mathematician and math has been his passion and his life since he was a child.  Ask him to do a simple computation though and there will be a long pause followed by most likely the wrong answer.  For myself, in AP Chemistry I could always figure out the formula needed and set it up correctly, but 9 times out of 10 I would never have the right answer.  I’m a bit better than my dad at mental arithmetic but too impatient to figure out where I messed up a number here or there.

So not only do we have different learning styles (there was talk of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences) but math comes in all kinds of “flavours”, textures and forms.  Now take you and your experiences, your child, your child’s teacher and their experiences add in different learning styles and teaching styles and try to get everyone from point a to point b.  Not an easy task.

A few tips I did learn though to help navigate this journey are:

– Remember that math has changed.  Your child will go from being asked to give an answer to understand or navigate a process.

-Math takes practice.  Just like anything else, practice makes perfect.

– I also learned about some good resources online:

Khan AcademyWhat Works ClearinghouseWolfram MathmaticaComputer Science Teachers OrganizationAssociation for Computer MachineryBootstrapBrainpop, abcya.

Not a part of Dads do Good’s math event, but also a great local program providing opportunities for children to do more with science and technology is Parts and Crafts and mentioned at the event was also Tufts robotics programs for children and children and parents together.

We all had a great time!  Thank you to all involved.

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