Going back to school in the fall felt partly exciting and partly terrifying for various reasons when I was young.
The exciting part was having new school supplies - two sharp Laddie pencils, a shiny new box of crayons, a fresh, clean yellow pad of paper, and, of course, a nice, big, fat pink eraser. If I was lucky, I'd even have a new book bag to hold them all.
I looked forward to going to school and learning came fairly easily to me. Not to brag, but I learned to read well at an early age, had nice penmanship, and became an ace speller. I loved the subjects of geography and history, and I was pretty creative when it came to projects. This was the fun part of school.
Then there was math - the terrifying part. It started out easily enough with 1+1 = 2, then quickly accelerated to complex and difficult before I knew it. I was completely paranoid that everyone else was getting it except me. I would come home and go over and over math problems until I was bleary-eyed, but I eventually understood them. I knew I could not let myself fall behind. The numbers were just getting bigger!
Math is simply, or not so simply, one of those subjects in which you can't fall behind or you're seriously done for. Later in life, no one will care if you have sloppy penmanship or you can't name the capital of your state. You can live with those shortcomings. But math in some way, shape, or form will follow you around the rest of your life, so it's important to make sure your early learner understands math concepts and doesn't fall behind.
In ABC News this week there was a fascinating article about how kids learn math and what parts of their brains work while solving math problems. Memory-based problem solving is an important key to learning math.
Take multiplication tables. They're just one of those things you have to memorize. You'll never ever in your life count to 70 on your fingers. You just have to know and understand that 7 tens equal 70, meaning 7 x 10 = 70, and inversely that 10 x 7 = 70, and also that 70/10 = 7, and so on. Forwards, backwards, and inside out, you just have to know it and be able to retrieve it in your brain.
Bottom line of the article is that it pays to drill your kids on simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication tables. It builds strong, stable, and efficient connections in the brain and develops skills they will use their whole lives.
Read more about math learning in the ABC News' article, Kids Brains Re-organize When Learning Math Skills.
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