"Let's make sure that those kids LOVE math!" is a
directive that one school superintendent gives to the elementary teachers in
his district. After an assembly, children on the playground often come to my car to say goodbye, and tell me "if you explain where the missing dollar went in that story, I promise not to tell anyone!" Or they almost beg to be told "how can you always know the secret number when you do the Mystery of the Clock trick?" It doesn't take children long to figure out that "Hart really likes having fun with us, playing with math. He likes it and wants us to like it." Enthusiasm is contagious, and young children fall into the notion that just as we PLAY music, we can have fun PLAYING math. Some of my college students have told me that they don't remember ever having a joyful experience with math. For them, math was always connected to boredom and embarrassment. They endure math, hoping to meet a requirement. A farmer can't go back and water last year's crops. I am glad that I can now use my time and energy trying to motivate YOUNGSTERS who are still open to enthusiasm and choices. I have had MANY parent volunteer program planners inquire
about my assembly and comment "I don't remember ever seeing the words Attitudes are often formed during our early years. Lucky is the child who grows up seeing and FEELING that math is cool, awesome, and interesting. We need it, and can have FUN with it! At the end of an assembly, a teacher will occasionally come up and explain "this stuff was great. I hated math as a child, and even hated teaching it until a few years ago when a college professor used things like you showed us to demonstrate the WHY of math." It would be strange to find that a person who HATES music teaches music to children. At teacher workshops, I share favorite methods of meeting benchmarks and objectives with novelties that engage, entertain, and TEACH. It's fun to walk into a classroom when you know that you have something with genuine mathematical value that entertains.In my 46 years of college teaching, it was common to find that people had "learned" things that were wrong. They believed (incorrectly) that 0 divided by 0 equals zero and 12 divided by 0 is either 12 or 0 (they waffled back and forth between those two wrong answers. It's difficult to get people to UNLEARN incorrect concepts that are deeply imbedded in their memory. I love showing young children the truth about 0 divided by 0 and 12 divided by 0. They get it, and prove that they get it! Breaking concepts into tiny tiny parts, and going over those parts repeatedly, leads to ownership. A light-hearted experience of PLAYING with mathematical concepts can lower anxiety and make the subject more attractive. People sometimes distort their face as they say "Calculus-- that sounds sooo difficult". "Calculus" is the Greek word for "pebble". Moving a pebble for each animal as it goes out to graze in the field, and moving pebbles the other way as they return (one-to-one correspondence between animals and stones) helps the shepherd "calculate" - keeping track of the animals. Fear of the WORD "calculus" keeps some people away from an interesting subject that tells us a lot about motion and how things change! Hopefully, a youngster who attends a Math With Hart assembly will remember the FEELING that there really is enjoyment in playing with things numerical, and we need not fear mathematics. By breaking complex ideas into tiny parts and taking care of the details, we can get ownership of some powerful tools. |

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