By Mr. Nelson Felipe, Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, Lower School Math Instructor
“When am I ever going to use this in life?” “Why do we need to know this, Mr. Felipe?” I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked this by a student over the years, but it’s a lot.
My quick response is usually to mention the jobs that naturally use math, such as science, engineering and architecture. Having studied architecture, I have given specific examples of when I used it way back when.
Of course, that’s never enough. “But what if I don’t want to be scientist, engineer or architect?” Sometimes I have the time to respond with the longer answer. “I was hoping you would ask!” I go on to explain that math is necessary exercise for our brains to grow. Without physical exercise, we wouldn’t have the power to run, jump, or play any kind of sport.
The brain is like a muscle that needs exercise to grow. Math develops our reasoning, helps us to develop analytical thinking, quickens our mind, generates practicality and can be applied in the day-to-day. This allows us to be able to do great things, for example, to create the next spaceship or find the cure for cancer! Then I’d say, “Isn’t that great?” and get this response, “You win, Mr. Felipe. Let’s get back to work...”
I’ve always been enthusiastic about math, especially in college. The math involved in the study and practice of architecture helped me develop my own analytical thinking and reasoning. I always believed education is life-changing and my best role models were teachers. That is why I changed my path from being an architect to becoming a teacher – to be a role model and instill my love of math in my students.
Most of my experience has involved teaching middle school math, giving me a unique perspective on the elementary level foundation necessary to succeed in middle school math. There are many reasons I love teaching elementary students. Their laughter, ah-ha moments, and sheer joy in learning something new is contagious.
Instilling a love of math is something that should be done at home as well. Just as playing an instrument, riding a bike, and swimming require practice to master, so does math. Be the positive role model at home and avoid talking about math negatively. Even if you don’t consider yourself a ‘math person,’ saying so in front of your child suggests that math is not important.
Just because math requires work doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Computer games, websites, and phone apps for math are abundant. However, math can also be practiced in fun ways with cards, games, and cooking. Some great board games you can play with your child include Chutes and Ladders, Trivial Pursuit, and Monopoly. Not only is it a bonding experience, but learning how to cook something with Mom or Dad can also help teach measurements. Children don’t have to excel at math to enjoy it. But, if they enjoy it, they are much more likely to excel at it.
Tune in next week for more tips for math success for junior high and high school students by Mrs. Lisa Parrish, Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy Upper School Pre-Calculus and AP Calculus teacher.