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Schools teach maths the wrong way

Posted by Graeme in parenting at 5:42 am on Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The idea that what should be a beautiful and fun subject is being destroyed by schools is not mine: a mathematician has expressed it much better. Personal experience seems to confirm it.

Lucy, who is a month short of seven, is not very interested in her maths homework. It is basically lots or practice in basic arithmetic, and things like measuring lengths, with some rather pathetic attempts to make it relevant or interesting with contrived examples.

While helping her multiplication, I took the chance to show her some simple sequences of numbers. She was instantly fascinated, and thought that trying to figure out the rules of each sequence was a wonderful game. Whenever I ran out of ideas, she pestered me for more sequences.

I stared with very simple ones (2,4,6) but once she got the idea I tried others. She managed to work out how the Fibonacci sequence worked from the first five digits. Of course, she was stumped by some that are obvious to an adult ( such as 1,10,11,100,101,…. and 1,2,4,8). These two were useful as they gave me an opportunity to remind her of binary numbers, and she then pestered me to give her decimal numbers to convert to binary and vice-versa.

I persuaded her to do her maths homework by promising to give her more sequences once she finished it. I am planning to try (1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 …….) to introduce the idea of asymptotes.

Children usually need something to motivate them to learn maths. What Lucy and the sequences shows that it does not have to be real life problems: pure maths can be a game that requires arithmetic to solve and it teaches them to see patterns and the beauty of maths at the same time.

Comments (1)


Comment by Educating Lucy: Maths at 9:06 am on 14 November 2009 at

[…] I have said before, I do not like the way in which schools teach maths, so what do I do instead? Do stuff that is fun, […]

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