The Ministry Of Education writes in its Mathematics Syllabus for primary education, about their goal to raise students who understand math in real life. It is a good objective, but I wonder how they expect their teachers to carry that out when a large part of real life takes place outside the classroom. Multiply that problem across a class of 40 students, with each having his own unique “real life” experiences, and you will understand how difficult that task is. Is it possible for even the best math teacher to engage all her students in real life math within the limited periods of Math lessons? What is math in “real life” in the first place?
Real life math has to be set against real life experiences and problems. Although it can be partially engineered for discussion in the classroom, it can only be fully understood when experienced outside its walls where real life is taking place. Student who are taught math via only cropped pictures, diagrams or videos of situations, within the comfort of their classroom, have, at best, a skewed understanding of real life math. For instance, how will children ever understand a distance of 5km without ever walking it, or what 5 kg feels like without ever lifting it? In classroom math, 5 km or 5 kg is a matter of putting ink on paper without having to break a sweat. Those who think they’ve learnt the lessons that way, i.e. by solving a problems that they have no contextual understanding about, are misguided. They may achieve good grades now, gain false confidence, and create unnecessary problems in real life in later years, (which is a subject for another essay). The fact is, without the full context of real life, learning real life math simply cannot take place.
However, what is close to impossible for teachers to do, is easily doable by parents, but not without effort. Fortunate are children who have parents who are skilful, or who are learning to be skilful, in engaging them with helpful questions and timely answers to connect what they learn in class to the real world they live in, parents who take them out and make the effort to explain how the world functions. Such conversations are precious. They will raise the child’s awareness and help them navigate life. Inevitably, their IQ and EQ levels will rise to follow suit.
I wrote Fun-filled Math Conversations With Your Child for this purpose: to help parents hone that skill of finding and making useful math conversations with their children. The message is simple: IT IS POSSIBLE for you to have fun and bond with your child over math.
Please help me spread the message. The book is now available at our online store. You can also purchase it at Times Bookstore, Kinokuniya and The Health Shop at the Adelphi.