I posted s a couple of weeks ago on Encouraging Your Child to Like Math: Why and How. I've decided to continue this topic as a series of shorter, actionable tips. Here is today's tip for helping kids to enjoy math: watch (and participate in) team sports. Sports, particularly team sports, are all about numbers. And many kids are already interested in sports. Sometimes passionately interested. All you have to do is throw in some questions, like this:
- So if the Red Sox have 7 and the Yankees have 1, how many more runs do the Red Sox have?
- If this quarter lasts 15 minutes, and the clock is showing 6 minutes, how many minutes are left until the end of the quarter?
- If Duke is leading by 8 over UNC, how many 2 point baskets does UNC need to make (unanswered) to tie the game? How many 3 point baskets to take the lead?
- And so on...
You can do this with pretty much any sport. It helps if there is a scoreboard visible somewhere, so that your child can see the numbers himself. But it's not strictly necessary. If your child's under-six soccer team is losing 3 to 1, ask her how many goals they need to tie the game. Obviously, the older kids get, the more complex your questions can be.
Baseball is particularly good. Baseball is all about numbers. I would imagine that many, many people over the years have gotten their introduction to numbers by filling in baseball scorecards. (See Linda Sue Park's middle grade novel Keeping Score for a great depiction of this). I wasn't thinking about any of this consciously when my daughter was a baby, but when I was feeding her a bottle, I would sometimes watch baseball (with her head turned from the screen). I would want to keep talking to her, so I would give her some play by play about the game. And even then, I would throw in little math references. "Oh, that's two strikes. Only one more."
The other day we were early for a birthday party, and there was an indoor soccer game going on, with a scoreboard. My daughter pretty much started on her own figuring out how much the home team was winning by, and how much time was left (ok, we had to ask someone how long the periods were). This, because I've trained her to think this way over nearly six years. For her, it was just a way to pass the time, I think.
So, a fun and easy way to encourage kids to like math is just to follow sports. Of course you have to actually talk about the numbers. But this flows so naturally when talking about sports that anyone can do it. Happy numeracy-building!