Does your child have an interesting math book on her bookshelf? I don’t mean a cute book. And I don’t mean an interesting story that briefly mentions “math”. I’m talking about a book that both teaches math and talks about things of interest to your child.
What got me thinking about this question was “The Coolest Math Problem Ever” blog post on Geekmom.com. It’s a short post about a simple math problem that references a (still-popular?) X-Files show.
Good for you if your child is into X-Files. But what if she is more of a Trekker? Or maybe she’s too young for both and prefers the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Handy Manny instead?
For example, my not-quite-5-year old son can care less about pretty much the entire line-up of children’s shows and instead begs for Star Wars and anything “about robots”. His distant cousin, being slightly older and a girl, scoffs at everything unless it has horses in it. And a neighbor’s 2-year old is totally into his toy construction machines.
I bet, if you make math all about, say, robots, horses and trucks, it will be an epic win and your kid will most likely ask you for more math.
Except, it’s hard to find flashcards or workbooks that satisfy such diverse interests. So you have to be creative about it. Make your own and make it into a story because kids love stories.
I snapped the picture above a while ago at an art festival. And it looks totally awesome. But you don’t have to be remotely artistic to play this math story game. You can draw some pretty crude stick figures just as long as you explain to your child that “this is Mickey and this one is Goofy”. Or you can print the images off the Internet.
The point is you draw a grid, starting with smaller ones for younger or less experienced kids and progressing to larger ones. Draw (or glue) different parts of pictures in the top row and in the left column. For my Star Wars-obsessed boy, this was the game of “Jedis need pants too” in which characters wake up and try to get dressed only to discover that the evil Emperor mixed up all their pants.
Next, tell a story around it trying all the different combinations of the elements. Your child can help you to assemble the resulting combinations by drawing, gluing or just pointing. It might not happen first thing, but as the story progresses, she will become drawn into it more and more.
But hold on, is it really math? After all, there are no numbers here and no counting. You see, instead of counting, you are teaching your child to see and analyze combinations of two variables. Besides, these are not just any old combinations, but structured combinations meaning there’s some structure or pattern behind them (rows and columns of the grid).
Adults use this skill every day, from setting appointments (calendar is a grid) to figuring out bus schedules (grids) and Excel spreadsheets. Shooting higher, some of the hottest professions nowadays rely on visualization and data structuring skills.
Have you played the grid game with your child? We’d love to hear your story. Stumped by your child’s unusual interests? Share them with us and we’ll help you out.