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Math Anxiety — Who’s to Say That Your Child Is Not Good at Math? The Third Article of Three
What is it about mathematics that causes so much pain and anxiety, turmoil and strife, tears and rage? Is it math or an illusion of catastrophe if our child does not become proficient in this skill? Well, who is to say that our children are not capable of this skill? Mathematical anxiety has produced separate mathematical worlds; the school math they hate and the real-life math they don’t even realize is math. Take a look at your child’s play activities. I did and found Neopets®. You might find video games, strategy games, computer games, or Legos®. For a long time, I was discouraging my daughter from playing Neopets. He always said, “Don’t you have anything better to do than be at Neopets?” Then one day I stopped and took a good look at what he was doing at Neopets. Boy was I surprised! Neopets is a great math site, but don’t tell your kids that. In this place, they learn about bartering and value, buying things with neopoints. They learn industry. At first you have to earn neopoints, like a job, but my daughter created a business to earn neopoints. Buy neopets, add value and sell them to earn neopoints. He created a Neo-business. On the site, your neopoints earn interest. You can also invest in neostock. There is gambling on the site, but I don’t see it as a bad thing. Teaches probability and statistics. Most of all, Neopets is fun, so there are a lot of kids doing it. They are having fun and using math.
What does your child like to do? Have you taken a close look at their computer or video games? I think you might be surprised how much math you can find hidden in the play (not to mention role playing games, literature, etc.) How about board games that your kids like to play? My family likes Scrabble®. Most people think it’s a play on words, but if you intend to win, you should pay attention to the mathematics at play. Word placement to maximize letter points and word points is the object if you want to win. Too often we try to make the biggest word we can with our letters, but sometimes a smaller word will give more points. Sometimes the points are better if the letters are rearranged to achieve double or triple letter scores. Make sure your child calculates their own points.
We also love Rummikub®. This is a great game to see the pattern as you move the tiles back and forth from sets to rolls to sets. There is a toddler version, but we quickly outgrew it. I’ve found this to be true with a number of classic games for which there are now versions for younger children. Don’t waste your money. If the adult game is too difficult, just change the rules to suit your level of play.
Monopoly® is a great example. How many of us don’t play this play because 1) it takes too long, 2) it’s hard to figure out house prices and then hotels, 3) kids don’t understand concepts like mortgages, etc. So we tend not to play the game. But why not change the rules? Start with more money. Buy a property as a group (or you can buy any property in the group, if you land on one you already own). Go straight to hotel shopping and lower the price to make it affordable. If you don’t like these rule changes, make your own. Just agree on the rule changes and write them down before the play begins. Nothing ends the fun faster than an argument about the rules. Use the simpler rules until everyone gets the hang of them, then change them again.
We also like simple games like Uno®, Skip-bo®, Set® and checkers. We love puzzles and brain teasers and the latest fad, Sudoku®. These games may not look like math games, but they will strengthen your child’s math skills by strengthening their ability to see patterns. Seeing patterns is the basis of mathematics. On my website, [http://www.mathischildsplay.com] you can get the list of my top 10 games for developing math skills. Play games for at least 15 minutes every day and you will be amazed at the improvement in your child’s math skills. Play for an hour and stop worrying about math.
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