I sighed and dropped the math materials onto the table. My children’s laughter and wriggling twittered into silence as their faces now reflected my own anxieties. I was burdened with perfectionism, lack of confidence, and my own math-relationship baggage. There are several reasons why homeschoolers hate math. Perhaps this is the main one.
What’s Your Relationship with Math?
Charlotte Mason explains “Children are born persons…with possibilities for either good or evil” and that parents-teachers are “limited to three educational instruments – the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.” Our children may be born with talents that make certain skills easier to learn than other skills, but they are not born with love or hate of any subject. Their attitude is shaped by their experiences and environment, and Charlotte calls this atmosphere.
Our children have a bad relationship with math because we have not properly introduced them to the subject. We prejudiced them against it from the start with mutterings, sighs, anxiety, and frustration. We must revisit and repair our own relationship with math so we may model and nurture a proper one.
Repairing Our Relationship with Math
Let’s start at the beginning:
“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness….And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”
In the first 4 verses of Genesis, we see form (or shape), volume, measurement, time, and the beginning of symmetry and pattern – all mathematical distinctives. When we see the application of math in the beauty of creation, might we begin to enter a place of wonder and delightfully infuse this into the atmosphere of our home education? One may enjoy nature without fully understanding it, and the same applies to math. If we approach the subject with a sense of discovery (instead of dread), we begin a lifelong interest in something larger than ourselves.
Understanding and Application
No matter our level of mathematical talent, we can develop our math skills as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of how math is hidden all around us. What we do understand, we may then apply. Those who understand more will be more adept at application, and that is their gift and responsibility. We are all limited in our understanding, and it is an act of humility to actively learn what we can while appreciating those who can go further.
Once we have corrected the atmosphere, we may move on to the discipline of habit. Math requires attentiveness, focus, and regular interaction. The disciplined student will reap the rewards of steady growth in mathematical comprehension as well as the skill of precision and the virtue of patience. Mastery is the goal at each level, and repetition of levels may be necessary.
Growing with Math
We must grow past the initial memorization of processes and move into the understanding of principles. The question now becomes “Why do we solve this problem in this way?” Now it’s important to either understand math or partner with someone who does. Hire them, barter with them, but do what it takes to acquire personal assistance in comprehending mathematical principles.
When partnering with a text, tutor, or teacher, be sure that learning and assessment are purposeful. Do not fall into the trap of doing math just to say it was done, move on, and do more math. This is the fallacy of the teachers in 2 Timothy 3:7 who cause others to always learn but never come to a knowledge of the truth. Math comprehension is just as important as reading comprehension and doing math because “that’s the way it’s done” is like only knowing sight words. Move into comprehension.
Math is our Friend
Dear Parent, if you never moved past rote math and into the beauty of understanding, please stop hitting your head on the wall and begin to model the path of the humble learner. Normalize the humility of not knowing all the things and still being curious. This is the presentation of living ideas – noticing symmetry in nature, measuring ingredients while adjusting a recipe, counting fingers and toes, planting seeds at the correct depth and distance, and asking the lady behind the paint counter how to calculate the number of gallons needed to paint the room you measured together. Let me introduce you to my extraordinary friend, Math.
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Article was written by Mrs. Tamara Pool.
TNHA Teacher: Latin I, section II; Medieval World History, National Latin Exam Prep, and Study Skills
One of Tamara’s favorite things is encouraging parents and inspiring teens to pursue deep relationships with God and family and embrace their educational journey. Tamara has served as a writer, conference speaker and homeschool consultant for over 10 years. When she’s not teaching, you’ll find Mrs. Pool enjoying family time, making (or tidying) a creative mess, or studying for her Master of Arts degree in Classical Studies.