A few weeks ago, this thought hit me right between the eyes: “My four-year-old LOVES math!”
Missing the Obvious
That may not seem like a life-changing revelation, but for me it was quite a wake-up call. You see, I’ve never been crazy about math. For most of my life I have actually hated it (VERY bad math teachers). Although my mathphobia is in remission, it made me stop in my tracks when I realized that my daughter thinks math is FUN. Not only that, but she has quite the knack for it! Like most parents, we have taught her to count, which she loves. She counts everything! She counts stairs, beads, toys, books, nuts… basically whatever she is interested in at any given moment. Lots of kids like to count, so that really didn’t strike me as unusual. One of her favorite toys is a calculator. Sometimes it is used as a pretend phone, but mostly she just loves to push the buttons and ask us what the numbers are. Kids love to push buttons, so that didn’t strike me as unusual, either…
When the first of our cherry tomatoes ripened last summer, we went out back and picked a big bowl full. I put a handful of them in her little bowl for a snack. “Mama, I have three red tomatoes and two orange tomatoes. That makes five tomatoes!” We had NEVER taught her to add. She just started doing it on her own. We were shocked, but I didn’t think beyond, “Wow!” Deep thinking, I know. She continued in her counting and adding, until…
A few weeks ago, she had a bowl of something (nuts, I think) and suddenly declared, “I have five nuts and I’m going to eat one. Then I’ll have four. If I eat another one, I’ll only have three.” and so on. Subtraction?? We hadn’t taught her that, either! All we did was teach her to count and she started telling us how to add and subtract. That’s when I had my “Gee, she really likes math” revelation. I may be a bit slow on the uptake, but it finally registered this time around and I thought, “I should probably do something to encourage this!”
What to Do, What to Do…
Since I’m still not too crazy about math, I just wasn’t looking for that in my daughter. It wasn’t a conscious avoidance of math, but I just wasn’t very excited about delving into the mysteries of mathematics with her. I’m a creative, artistic, book-loving girl and so is she… AND she loves math. Now what?
Since our goal with homeschooling is to teach our children to love to learn, we want to be aware of their interests and cultivate them while they are interested. That makes it a learning adventure for them, rather than drudgery. Catching these teachable moments (days/weeks/months) for each interest isn’t going to be easy. I missed the signs for this one, but I’m on the ball, now. How sad would it be if I had missed her interest in math for so long that by the time I was ready to teach her math, she wasn’t interested anymore? No, I don’t expect that I’ll have a world-renowned mathematician for a daughter, but encouraging her to explore this new interest while it’s exciting to her will positively influence her perception of math for the rest of her life! Who knows, if I had had kind and encouraging math teachers in school, maybe I would be telling you that math was my favorite subject.
So, what do I plan to do to cultivate her interest in math? Good question! With any other subject, I could list a dozen ideas off the top of my head, but for math… I’m a bit stumped. I’m going to have to do a little research and get back to you on that, but here’s what I’m hoping to find:
- Fun and challenging math games
- Stories that focus on math in some way
- Songs about math
- Math art (Haha, not even sure if that’s a real thing, but I’ll look!)
- Plenty of real life math opportunities (like counting, adding and subtracting the things around us)
After I became aware of Pumpkin’s interest in math, it occurred to me that I could be missing other interests. All of the things that I know she is interested in are also things I enjoy (art, nature, reading, etc.), so they are things that I am already making an effort to cultivate. Going forward, I will be paying special attention to make sure that I don’t miss anything just because it isn’t something that I am naturally drawn to. We’ll just have to wait and see where her amazing little mind leads us!
Have you been taken by surprise by your child’s interests? Do you have any fun math ideas for me?