Yesterday I chatted with a friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. Her child, a bright and energetic 8-year old, participates in quite a few extracurricular activities – ballet, gymnastics, tae kwan do, and art. Next year, music lessons might be added to the mix.
I asked my friend how they choose the activities for their daughter. Well, ballet was Mom’s choice since it was something Mom always wanted to do herself, gymnastics – Dad’s, since he was in gymnastics as a boy. Martial arts was a joint decision because it is known to improve child’s discipline. And art was the girl’s own choice.
Then I asked this question: if there was a math club or a math circle near you, would you consider signing up your daughter?
Her answer was “Absolutely! We are actually considering some extra math drills for her since she has some problems in school.”
This reminded me of another conversation, months ago, when another friend said that she wasn’t interested in a math club for her daughter because “she was doing well enough without it”. Yet another friend, this one with a preschooler, said that it was simply too early for her child to learn math.
I find it very interesting why there’s such a difference between attitudes towards, say, a dance class or an art class and a math club. Why the reactive attitude? I mean, why wait until a child falls behind in math class? Why math clubs are thought of as places for remedial math? Why sending a 3-year old to ballet classes is perfectly “normal” while playing advanced math games with her is not (“are you trying to raise a genius?”, “why are you torturing a child?”, “why don’t you let her enjoy childhood for now?”, and similar questions).
What if we looked at art, music, dance, gymnastics, LEGO and other children’s activities from a different perspective. Each and every one of these offers so many opportunities for mathematical discoveries! We just need to help our kids recognize and explore these opportunities. How can we do it? Where do we start?