Wednesday, April 27, 2016

I'm Counting on You.

OK, before you read any further start counting by 5s. You can stop when you get to 50. Done that? Did you go 5, 10, 15, 20 etc? Yes you probably did.

Now, before you read any further count by 5s starting at 3.

OK, done that? What you probably did, if you are representative of 95 percent of the population is that you started off really slowly and hesitantly
3 + 5 is 8 + 5 is 13 + 5 is 18 and then, you probably went 23,28, 33,38,43,48 gathering speed as you went.

To check try counting by 5s starting at 7. Chances re you stumbled to begin with until you saw the pattern. Math is the Science of Pattern and once you see the pattern you are a long way to having a meaningful understanding of what you are doing.

Try the same thing with fractions. Count by halves starting at 0. Try it before reading any further.   Now start counting by halves beginning at a quarter. It's just the same, once you see the pattern everything gets easier.

So why not try it with decimals. Count by .3 starting at 0. Now count by .3 starting at .5. A little bit more tricky but it works. As soon a you see the pattern you can reel the numbers off as fast as you can speak.

This is the sort of thing we should be doing with students and adults to combat the paralyzing fear or hatred of maths that is so pervasive in the US. We are hampered, held back and disabled  by the debilitating phrase of "I'm no good at math" spoken aloud every day by so many people in so many places with large and small audiences by people of all ages and genders. Even the phrase "do the math" sounds like a  threat sometimes. No-one ever says "do the reading" and no one ever says, out loud, "I'm no good at reading" as described in this very eloquent Washington Post piece
sent to me recently by Erik, my wonderful engineer son-in-law.

Everyone can do maths if they focus on understand it and don't just memorize isolated facts to get scores on tests. Maths is made to be understood and played with; just like language.    

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