What Do You Think Wednesday – Math (Including A Great Splash Math Give-a-way!)

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Some of my favorite blog posts, both on this blog and others, are the ones where the readers share their thoughts on a given topic.  It fascinates me and stretches my mind to see the different ideas that people have based on their own experiences, culture, upbringing and education.  So I’m starting a series of “What do you think Wednesday” posts to ask you all to share your thoughts on a wide variety of topics.  This week…. I’d love to know what you think about math.

More specifically, is mathematical ability genetic and also do you feel that it is necessary for students to learn advanced math (algebra and beyond)?

As a home-school mom math has become a very big deal in my world.  I think about it far more often that one would suspect. I would love to know what some of you think as well!

In our little Hippie Academy life can go on quite merrily for some time.  Sweet Hippie Daughter is a great reader and flies through books on every topic from American history to astronomy to biographies (though she has a strong preference for the Goosebumps and Bone books over any of those).

She will practice her trombone and write beautiful journal entries. She is working on typing skills, loves to watch documentaries about animals and has a decent grasp of world geography.

Then we come to math and the walls start to crumble.  There is crying and yelling and pulling of the hair and general overwhelming frustration.  And that’s just ME.

"I'm freaking out! FREAKING OUT!"

“I’m freaking out! FREAKING OUT!”

She is slogging through.  She can do an acceptable amount for her grade level.  She is not excelling, as she has in other areas.

I truly believe that anyone can learn math.  I truly believe that anyone can master very nearly any subject, given the proper time, motivation and instruction.

For instance, I can learn to play the piano.  There’s not a doubt in my mind that I could master the skills, put my fingers on the right keys and make nice music.  I will never play like George Winston or John Tesh (Click here to read about my fascination with John Tesh).

Given enough time and dedication I could become a good basketball player.  I will never play like Michael Jordan.

Everyone has various gifts to various degrees but everyone can learn and grow in the right environment.

I think.

This article would agree.  The author argues that a large part of the reason American high school students don’t do well in math is because they’re told from the very beginning that, if they aren’t achieving at a high level, it’s because they’re just not “math people,” and they never will be.

On the other hand, they argue that advanced math is important for every student.  I wonder if that’s true.  Math… yes.  You have to be able to quickly and accurately do math.  You need to be able to balance your checkbook, estimate the cost of your groceries, understand how much 3% inflation is going to cost you, and avoid being ripped off by a payday loan place that offers cash advances at a 400% apr.

But does every child need to know how to figure a tangent? Must each student learn the quadrilateral equation?

I learned those things. Painfully, with great effort, like my daughter, I slogged through all the way to college calculous.  I remember, vividly, fighting with my mother and my teachers (as I’m fairly certain every kid does, at some point) and saying, “I’M NEVER GOING TO USE THIS!”

It’s been 20 years.  I stand firm.  I will never use any of that knowledge.

Image source

Image source

Solve for x?

Yes. That’s pretty important. I actually do use that, from time to time.

Anything beyond that….   I’m just not sure it was worth the agony for a kid who knew from elementary school that she had no desire to go into any field that would require such knowledge.

But now I’m faced with educating two precious children, so my own predjudices about education need to be set aside in order to equip them with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.

So I ask you, what do you think?

Is mathematical ability genetic and also do you feel that it is necessary for students to learn advanced math (algebra and beyond)?

Let us know in the comments here or on Facebook!

And while we’re on the subject of math, I am SO EXCITED to be a part of a great give-a-way, hosted by The Squishable Baby!

She is giving away a one year subscription to Splash Math (a $79 value), as well as 4 one month subscriptions.  Splash Math is a great tool to supplement what your child is learning in school (whether school is at home or elsewhere).  It provides a platform for them to practice their math skills in a fun way.

Click here to get all the details, read a review and enter the contest.  

*I did not receive any financial or product compensation from Splash Math for promoting this contest.  

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email, Facebook or Twitter to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

You may also be interested in:

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110 Reasons Why We Homeschool – Our 2nd annual look at “should we be doing this?”

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A Week In The Life Of A Homeschool Family – A glimpse into how we do things

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6 responses »

  1. I do believe that every child can learn math, however I also believe that genetics play a big role in how easy it is for you to learn. Some people are hard wired with an analytical brain, and things like math, science and random trivia come easy to them. Some people are very artistic and have great imaginations and through those things, being great joy into the world. And then there are yet others that seem to have a little bit of both sides of the coin. (I do not have a creative bone in my body, and yes I excelled at math and science. My husband can’t make heads nor tails out of the things that come easy to me, but he can create things seemingly out of nothing.)

    As far as what we need to learn, I’d say solving for x is pretty useful in the real world but all the rest? NOPE! Unless you hope to one day become a molecular biologist, or an astronaut, or a brain surgeon ( and really, what’s the chances of that?)

  2. First of all, let me say what a beautiful article this is! It is such a breath of fresh air to see someone being so reflective and trying to help others do the same! Great job, mom!!

    Now as for math (and yes, I am a licensed teacher, so please forgive any bias!), what you and the previous commenter have noted about everyone being able to learn is absolutely true. It is also true that genetics play a part in how easy or difficult it is for some people to learn certain subjects. But now I am going to play devil’s advocate here and say that, yes, everyone should be required to take some level of advanced math. Granted, the definition of “advanced math” is broad, so for the sake of argument I am going to argue that everyone should have at least an introduction to algebra, trigonometry, high school level geometry, and beginning calculus. Why? Because these classes teach us how to think logically and critically. No, I do not actually use calculus on a daily basis, but I am a better thinker for having taken and passed the class. Logical and critical thinking are life skills that should be nurtured through every course we take throughout our educational careers from maths and sciences to arts and literature.

    I hope my response proves thought-provoking, at least.

    Again, many kudos to you for stepping out of your comfort zone, putting your own biases aside for the sake of your children, and being open to new ideas!

    • I didn’t think of it that way, but you are right! That is exactly why I’m having my kids take band, not necessarily because I think they will go on to make a career of it, because they probably won’t, but because I think it will make them better thinkers. I guess I didn’t think of advanced math as kinda the same thing.

  3. I was always told to just get through algebra because it would never be used in the “real world”. I can only assume my parents meant to take the pressure off of me but in reality they held me back from learning because they assumed that struggling with a subject meant I couldn’t get it. I don’t want to make the same mistake with my kids. Somewhere along the way our society has come to believe that we protect our kids’ self esteem by lowering our expectations of them. Anyone can learn math. If we teach our kids critical thinking skills, no subject is out of reach.

  4. I agree that anyone can learn anything with a lot of time and effort! I do think that math and science come easier to some than others. Some people are very analytical while others are creative, and I think that plays a lot into what their future selves may want to become. As far as advanced math in school, I’m for it. I know that a lot of people will not use anything more than algebra in their day to day lives, but others will. In high school, children may have an idea of what they want to be but some don’t. I wanted to be a lawyer and I probably wouldn’t have used advanced math. After my first year in college I decided that I really wanted to be a CPA and I needed the skills I learned in high school (well, maybe not calculus!). I think the best way to prepare kids for the real world is to teach them as much as we can before we send them off:)

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