a Spider Web
Hidden World of Mathematics
(Yikes!)... For some of us, this simple word sends a shiver up
our spine as those long ago tormented years in math classes come
back in a wave of consciousness so strong we can still smell the
musty text books and # 2 pencils. As parents, we desire to help
our children learn and understand how they will one-day come to
use math in their everyday lives. How then, do we get past our
nightmarish math memories to the point where, while educating
our children, we too can overcome the hesitations and learn to
Have you ever thought of
"math" as beautiful, imaginative or alive? Most only think
of math as numbers to be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided.
Wherein we may teach children how to manipulate numbers, like when
balancing a checkbook, parents seldom show their children how
mathematics occurs in nature or in architecture. Perhaps this is
because they were never shown these simple, everyday connections.
Theoni Pappas , author of
"Fractals, Googols and Other Mathematical Tales" delivers a
unique approach to math in that she emphasizes the beauty and hidden
wonders of mathematics. Instead of focusing solely on numbers, she
attempts to open eyes to the incredible mathematical patterns that
appear naturally in the world. She probes deeply into observations of
things like spider webs, sunflowers, leaf patterns and
coastlines. Most importantly, Ms. Pappas takes readers into a world
where math is not only beautiful but also awe-inspiring and fun.
with Theoni Pappas. We asked her for advice on how parents can
overcome their own math phobias in order to help their children
discover the joy of mathematics. Her suggestions were simple and
1. Don't let your fear
of math come across to your kids.
Parents must be careful not to perpetuate the mathematical myth -
that math is only for specially talented "math types." Strive not
to make comments like; "they don't like math" or "I
have never been good at math." When children overhear comments
like these from their primary role models they begin to dread math
before even considering a chance of experiencing its wonders. It is
important to encourage your children to read and explore the rich
world of mathematics, and to practice mathematics without imparting
2. Don't immediately
associate math with computation (counting).
It is very important to realize that math is not just numbers and
computations, but a realm of exciting ideas that touch every part of
our lives -from making a telephone call to how the hair grows on
someone's head. Take your children outside and point out real objects
that display math concepts. For example, show them the symmetry of a
leaf or angles on a building. Take a close look at the spirals in a
spider web or intricate patterns of a snowflake.
3. Help your child
understand why math is important.
Math improves problem solving, increases competency and should be
applied in different ways. It's the same as reading. You can learn the
basics of reading without ever enjoying a novel. But, where's the
excitement in that? With math, you could stop with the basics. But why
when there is so much more to be gained by a fuller understanding?
Life is so much more enriching when we go beyond the basics. Stretch
your children's minds to become involved in mathematics in ways that
will not only be practical but also enhance their lives.
4. Make math as
"hands on" as possible.
Mathematicians participate in mathematics. To really experience math
encourage your child to dig in and tackle problems in creative ways.
Help them learn how to manipulate numbers using concrete references
they understand as well as things they can see or touch. Look for
patterns everywhere, explore shapes and symmetries. How many octagons
do you see each day on the way to the grocery store? Play math puzzles
and games and then encourage your child to try to invent their own.
And, whenever possible, help your child realize a mathematical
conclusion with real and tangible results. For example, measure out a
full glass of juice witha measuring cup and then ask your child to
drink half. Measure what is left. Does it measure half of a cup?
5. Read books that make
6. Use the internet to help your child explore the fascinating world