At Home With Science & Math
by Kate Morgan
Many adults I know profess a serious dislike of math, and often of science as well. They think of the days of memorization and complex formulas, and don’t believe it has any relevance to their daily lives. In fact, many of them have stated quite emphatically, “I never use any of it so what was the point?”
Like language, science and math are natural parts of our everyday lives; we just aren’t always aware of it. In my house, my husband and I are constantly telling our son that math in particular is something he will use every single day of his life. When he asks us how, this is what we tell him:
Go shopping and figure out how many multiples of a product you need. Get paid and divvy up your pay cheque for the bills. Take your friends out for ice cream and make sure you have enough money before you get to the cash register. Knit or sew something and calculate your gauge or the length of your garment. Build something and calculate the materials you need. Check how much time is left before you have to go to work or to school. It never ends, and it all requires math.
Science also surrounds us in our daily lives. Baking, cooking, building, cleaning, driving—the list goes on and all items on it are science-based.
As parents we are well versed in the value of home reading and language development. We have been told time and time again the importance of reading with our children and playing word games with them to encourage language use and development. But how well versed are we in creating a healthy environment for science and math in the home? With a small adjustment in attitude and approach, I believe we can help our children embrace math and science.
Math is not some big, scary mystery—it is something we use every day in many ways. How can we relate this to children? Well, point out when they are doing math. When they ask how much longer before the movie, tell them you are subtracting or adding minutes to figure it out. When they want to know how many cookies they can have, show them how many are left if you each have a certain number, and tell them that is grouping or multiplication. Play with numbers the same way you play with words—count by twos, count everything you see, estimate how many of something you will need. Ask questions such as, “How many ducks do you think are flying overhead?” Notice numbers on signs—make a game of it when you are driving, looking for distance signs, speed signs, and road signs. This gets children thinking about numbers, and that, in part, is math.
Science also gets a scary rap. Why not change that? Do some baking, maybe, and tell your kids what the baking soda and baking powder do (leavening agents that cause baked goods to rise, which is why if you forget to add it, your muffins are like little rocks). If you don’t know the science behind something, look it up with your kids. Do simple experiments—mix baking soda with vinegar (great for clearing a drain), make cornstarch magic mud, dig in the compost box. Encourage kids to ask questions about how things work, and then help them to find the answers. Sometimes those answers can be found by reading, and sometimes they can be found by doing.
Science is all around us—when we bake, when we cook, when we garden, when we sleep, when we brush our teeth (why does toothpaste fizz?), when we brush our hair (static electricity). Don’t miss those little opportunities. Your child may not realize he is learning, but the important seeds are being planted nonetheless.
The payoff to all of this is that when your children reach school, and especially the intermediate and higher grades, they won’t have an irrational fear of science and math. Better yet, those two subjects might be among their favourites.
Kate Morgan is a freelance writer and editor who really does love science and math.