For the Love of Math

I never thought I would say this.  I never thought I would ever utter the words that so freely came out of my mouth today.  

I love math.  

My past relationship with mathematics was pretty much one of boredom.  Math was boring.  I did fine in the subject, but never connected with it.  It was BORING.  In high school I had the option to do an honors diploma where math would be my honors area.  I considered it, but dropped out of the class before I set foot in the classroom.  I figured that it wasn’t worth it.  It was a boring subject.  Math in college and graduate school was a little better because it involved statistics, but I only had to take two math courses in my six years of undergraduate and graduate studies.

Three years ago I started using Singapore Math with my kids.  Things started to change.  I started to see math in a different way.  Singapore teaches math concepts with a conceptual focus rather than learning algorithms.  As a result, my skills and knowledge grew even though this was elementary mathematics.

If you fast forward to the present time, I can now say that I love math.  My oldest started using Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra towards the end of last school year.  It also helps teach conceptually and gives you problems that can take quite some time to figure out how to solve.  Today my kid and I puzzled over one problem for about 30 minutes before we figured it out.  This is the way I wish that I learned math.  

Incredibly difficult problems that make you think and think and think to figure them out has really changed how I feel about math.  I look forward to my kid’s math time.  It is exciting to sit down next to him and work out the problems along with him.

My child has an advantage in that she has actually read the text and done all the practice problems.  I just join her for the end of the chapter problems, especially the challenging problems.  Sometimes she gets things quickly while I’m puzzling over the question and I have her explain it to me.  Sometimes I get things quickly and can give her some guidance.

Sometimes we share our ideas when we are stuck and it helps us figure out the problems together.  And yes, sometimes I break open the solutions manual when we are really stuck.  The solutions manual has the problems worked out and explained.  Learning and doing the problems together has been a good fit for us.

I love math and can’t wait to do it again tomorrow.  I expect that we will stick with the Art of Problem Solving sequence through high school.  I will need to start reading the textbook and doing the practice problems before too long though.

My kids haven’t been lovers of math.  Many times they have expressed dislike for the subject.  Yet, I still see glimpses here and there of a burgeoning love of math.  

A few minutes ago I turned to my oldest child and asked her if she liked math.  She shrugged her shoulders.  I asked her again and she grinned.  I said “You do like math, don’t you?”  She grinned and nodded yes.  

A few minutes later my son came begging to finish Dragon Box 2. Apparently he is almost done with all the levels and I just bought the game a little over a week ago.

We have many years of math ahead of us.  I hope that this journey is one where my children discover a love for math too.

Pencils and paper ready.  Let the fun begin!

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