Real World Math

How many times have you heard the phrase “I’m never gonna use it in real life!” as you plead with your child to do their math homework? It’s one of the oldest excuses in the book. Students who don’t like math, or feel they aren’t good at it, often use this reasoning to justify their disconnect. And who could blame them? When a student feels like something they’re learning is irrelevant to their lives, and they will never have a need for it, then why even bother? Well, because math is a lot more useful and relevant than many kids think.

Why Math Actually Matters

A lot of parents feel conflicted telling their child they need to try harder in math, because they themselves aren’t really sure that they’ll ever use it. But we all use math every day in ways we aren’t even aware of. 

Aside from some of the more obvious reasons math is helpful, like for paying your bills and managing finances, there are actually a number of other benefits of math that aren’t quite as obvious. Some of the actual benefits of learning math include developing skills in the kitchen, like measuring and baking, solving problems strategically, and applying reason and logic to a situation. None of these skills could be mastered if one did not have any foundational mathematical knowledge.

How to Convince Students That Math is Important

It’s all about motivation. When students feel motivated to learn something, it immediately feels relevant to their lives, and vice versa. Here are a few strategies for bringing a feeling of relevance into the math classroom:

Tell Stories Through Math

Word problems are great, but math stories are even better. And what child doesn’t love a good story? These are especially fun because they’re interactive. Students pause to make calculations at certain points throughout the story, then continue on. This is in contrast to word problems, which are more common, but which usually have students practicing skills in isolated situations.

Make Math Personal

Using names, objects, and situations that students can relate to is another way to help them connect to math. This could be as simple as using their first names in a word problem/story that they solve, or as complex as writing one about a student’s life.

Enlist Their Help

There’s nothing kids love more than when teachers ask for their help. Whether it’s deciding how many brownies to bake for a bake sale, or how much paint to buy to paint their house, children absolutely love helping teachers make these kinds of decisions. Describe a scenario to your students, whether it is a true scenario or not, and have them help you calculate something. Perhaps it’s the cost of your grocery bill, or the total cost of a family vacation.

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