Apr 27, 2023 | Red Deer

Parents need to believe that every child can succeed in math, and the best way to achieve that is to start early. Long-term, sustainable success requires commitment and patience, and that's what education is about: a lifelong process.


UK’s “anti-maths mindset” actually happens in other countries too

In the world of math, especially in the UK, the PM Rishi Sunak is making big news through his idea of “math until 18”: to make math education until the age of 18 compulsory, and not just stop at 16. He said the “anti-maths mindset” that says it’s ok and even cool if you’re bad at math, should not be socially acceptable – and it costs the UK economy a huge sum.

Only half of 16-18 years old students in the UK choose to study math. Good thing this is not the case in Canada: math is compulsory – with different levels of advancement – until grade 12. But the anti-maths mindset is just the same in this country, something that we were surprised when we found out. Too often we’ve seen people, old and young, look proud saying that they’re bad at math; a teenage student said that he didn’t want to be good at math because then he would be labeled as a nerd (d’oh!).

Rishi Sunak’s ideas garnered such an uproar – lots of pros and cons, including “it seems like a good idea, but ..” kind of opinion – which we agreed on. Yes it is a good idea, and what he’s saying makes sense. However, to make a child like and want to learn math should be nurtured from an early age. “Forcing” high-schoolers who have been having troubles with math for years to study math further – especially expecting them to be able to do math at their grade level – is counterproductive. Focusing on teaching math appropriately at elementary level would give a better result.  


Education is a lifelong process

And this is relevant everywhere, not just in the UK. Education is about long-term effort: you won’t see the result overnight. Parents need to believe that every child can succeed in math, and the best way to achieve that is to start early. Switch the mindset of “I want my child to pass the exam” to “I want my child to be able to do math for their long-term success” – and instill this belief into their child’s mindset. Parents who just want their child to pass the exam will get frustrated when their child cannot catch-up after a few months trying – and this would affect their child’s confidence and feel like a failure. They fail to appreciate their child’s personal development:  that in those few months learning math intensively, actually the child has accomplished and improved so much, only it’s not there yet. It takes years for a grade 7 student to fall behind and perform math ability at grade 3, so it takes lots of commitment and patience to strengthen the basic foundation in order to catch-up. Especially math learning is about building the concepts before. Expecting them to jump by 4 levels in a short time and fulfill the standard current grade is like expecting a child to write a novel while they’re still learning ABC.  


Math support for your child

OK so now we understand the importance of the lifelong process of math education. How about getting the support needed for your child? To catch up, schools are providing tutorial programs, which are especially possible through the Alberta government’s support for students affected by the pandemic. Other resources are of-course you as parents, and tutors who are specialized in math.

To be interested in math, the way it is taught is critical. When picking for the right tutorial program, be careful with those who offer program that rely on drill and memorization. Yes, practice makes perfect, but too much practice that relies on rote memorization will only grow their bad habits, and worse it could kill your child’s interest in math. What are examples of bad habits that carry on until they’re in high school? Counting by ones to add 45+7, counting by 8s to solve 8x7. And just like any bad habits, the older you are, the harder it is to break.

Since summer is just around the corner, it is actually a great time to “have fun” with math as there’s no pressure from school-works and exams. Mathnasium of Red Deer understands this so we provide a Summer Trial Program for families who want their child to be interested in math with fun activities – with the goal of teaching them conceptual understanding, not memorizing and relying on just procedural math. Besides having fun during summer, this would give them to start the school year off right in the fall.