Dani has been getting a bit of pressure from his mum to solve some simple maths problems at home. His mum and I disagree on this one. I am not too bothered. I am sure he could do better but at the same time he is not falling way behind. And he is still only 8 years old (well, almost). He does seem to struggle with some things I thought he had mastered but I also think he probably does better in the classroom environment.
Maths is one of those things that most people think they struggle with but is really only a matter of being able to apply it. I can remember plenty of kids from my school days who thought they were hopeless at maths. But in reality they were simply not interested and couldn’t see how it applied to their lives. Whenever I saw some of these characters years later in a pub their mental arithmetic skills would impress any college professor. I am talking about gambling.
If you asked them what the odds were on certain horses and how much you could win for a given stake they worked it out in a split second. They would even calculate how much tax you would pay (in the days when that was a thing in betting). Not only single horse, single races. These lads (and they are always males by the way) could work out complex bets involving several races before I could start to think what to write down mathematically. It was because they loved it. Gambling like this had become a part of their life and they enjoyed it. Now I am not promoting gambling here. Far from it. But my point is that the appliance of maths problems depends very much on the individual person.
We are all capable (in my opinion) but some people just need to find that thing to trigger their interest. If you asked them to write down their calculations they probably still could not do it. Or it would take them a long time. They do it in their heads. Using their very own grey matter calculators. It’s horses for courses – no pun intended…
Left from Right?
That was a maths related tale from my own past. Here’s another example. This is the kind of thing I see first hand, right now. There is a kid, a little older than Dani, living near us who does after school lessons in computer programming. That’s a thing now believe it or not. Yet incredibly he does not know his right from left. How do I know this you may ask? Well, even if you didn’t ask I am going to tell you. Twister!
Yes that Twister. The famous game from way back in the 1966. That’s 54 years ago. That surprised me when I had to look it up. I guess I thought it was a 70s game…
Anyway, back to the story… I was doing the wheel spinning and shouting out the commands. Left foot on Green, Right hand on Red etc… I am sure you all know it. The kid I am referring to really struggled and had to be reminded several times which side was left and which was right. OK, granted, in the heat of an intense game of twister we can all forget our left from our right. Right? But in this case I do believe the kid had genuine difficulty.
Yet the same kid is quite happy to learn computer programming skills. And no doubt struggles with some basic arithmetic problems at school. It just shows that teaching is hard if the kids are not interested. But how do you get them interested? A school trip to the racetrack is not the ideal solution. Some field trip eh? But maybe something like that is needed.
Youtube Gamers & Maths?
Maybe something along the lines of those boring (in my opinion) youtube videos showing you how to do things in certain video games. I know that Dani will happily sit for hours watching one of those people talking (crap) about how best to play some video game. In a way they are teaching, and the kids lap it all up.
If these youtubers could mix in the basic mathematics skills with their Minecraft (or some other crap video game) chats. everyone would benefit. The kids would not get pestered to ‘get off the screen’, the parents would be happy their kids are learning something.
I am sure if kids had to earn things in those video games by solving maths problems they would soon learn how to do it.