HowTo Boost Your Kid's Maths

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Most children can do maths if they try. But there are those who are frightened of the subject. There are good reasons. Paint a picture and it is debatable if it is good or bad. Even if a kid is told its picture is bad it can disagree with the opinion. If it writes a story, so long as the spelling, punctuation and grammar is right, it is unlikely anybody will say it is no good. Even if they did they might be wrong and the child knows it. So the child feels comfortable about not doing well. Or if uncomfortable at least not totally crushed.

But maths is different. There is not much room for debate if a kid says two plus two equals five. It is wrong, the world says it is wrong and the discussion ends there. All a child can then hope for is a prize for effort and it will not get too many of those if it keeps producing the wrong answers. Fear of maths starts young and if not addressed early can continue into teenage years and adulthood. With it goes the inability to do simple calculations and those without numerical skills can be disadvantaged for a lifetime.

So maths is scary and kids dislike the subject through fear of failure. They are not stupid kids, they have worked out that maths is unforgiving. What they have not worked out is that maths can be fun.
Maths just needs to be presented in the right way. A modern child is not interested in writing on a blackboard - or even a whiteboard. It wants to be entertained. Traditionalists may cringe, but that is how it is. Parents need not be too alarmed by this. There are products available which can teach and entertain at the same time. Just look for things like maths board games, maths card games, maths game sheets. These will teach anything from multiplication tables to reinforcing basic skills. Kids will enjoy the challenge and love learning maths because at long last it is fun. Best of all they will no longer be frightened of the subject.

Peter Stockwell has worked for many years at the University of Cambridge.

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