Maths Matters: How to Foster a Love of Maths in Your Child
In today's economy, fostering a love of maths has never been more crucial to supercharge your child's career potential.
Britain has a somewhat unfortunate reputation for lagging behind other countries in the teaching and learning of maths - and maths itself has an undeserved reputation as being "boring", "pointless" and "too hard". Yet with poor numeracy estimated to cost the British economy a staggering £20.2 billion a year, according to research done by Pro Bono Economics, fostering a love of maths in children has never been more important.
Instilling an appreciation of maths isn't hard, if you start young, and it can have very empowering results for your child's career potential as well as for their overall quality of life. As the world becomes more and more digital, it's worth remembering that most digital skills are born from decent numeracy skills - and with Race Online reporting that more than 90% of graduate jobs last year required high levels of digital skills, it's easy to see why a child with poor numeracy can quickly be left behind.
Why Maths Matters in Every Day Life
Even if your child is not interested in a STEM based career, having an understanding of and appreciation for maths will stand him or her in good stead whatever the future holds. Every child needs to develop the core numeracy skills which will eventually enable them to choose a mortgage, calculate which credit card offers the best deal, measure how much carpet their new home needs, create and stick to a household budget and assess the risk of any investments they might want to make.
Even at a very basic level, we all need to know how to distinguish between various special offers and discounts when shopping, and to work out how much more we'll have in our pockets if we get a 2% pay rise. Data handling skills and an understanding of statistics are also vitally important, especially now that we face such an information overload, where it's not always easy to discern which statistics have been manipulated for which purpose. In this way, maths is an essential component of the critical thinking skills every adult requires.
Why Maths Matters for Your Child's Career
Excellent maths qualifications are required for most STEM related careers, but they are also a prerequisite for many IT careers and degrees, and are hugely helpful for financial careers and for those hoping to succeed in the business world too. A solid mathematic understanding is also vital for social sciences careers, in order to make sense of data and experimentation results.
Even if your child intends to head into a very different career, a maths qualification is typically highly valued by potential employers. A maths A level, for example, shows off a candidate's ability to reason and to apply logic, and to problem solve.
How to Motivate Your Child to Enjoy Maths
Young children love to discover the many uses of maths in their practical everyday lives. When you're out shopping, talk about how to work out which product is the best deal; when you're cooking, let your child do the measuring and weighing. Out in the park, talk about how you might work out how tall a tree is, or estimate how many leaves it has. Look for symmetry in the buildings and natural objects you pass; back at home, deconstruct your used cereal boxes, envelopes and toilet rolls to discover and understand nets - the possibilities are endless if you start to think about your everyday activities through a mathematical lens.
Children of all ages enjoy mathematically based puzzles and games. Logic puzzles are always fun, and shape based puzzles like tangrams and Rubik's cube also provide excellent practice in fundamental maths skills. Sudoku and other number puzzles are engaging and absorbing to try, and even disentanglement puzzles give your knot theory and topology skills a good workout!
A savvy parent will use technology to help make maths fun too. Game and apps like Zoombinis are tremendous fun (even for grown ups!) and provide good practice in using algebraic thinking without even realising it.
If you love maths yourself, you'll be able to pass on invaluable enthusiasm to your child. Crucially, however, if you hated maths at school - keep quiet about that! It's important to avoid passing on your own fears and maths prejudice to your child - this is where much of math's negative image has come from.
Motivating Older Children
One of the best ways to motivate older children to take more of an interest in maths is to appeal to their future ambitions. Point out a few relevant statistics and help your child research the huge variety of interesting and lucrative careers which can grow from a maths background. Between 2011 and 2013, the number of jobs in Britain where maths qualifications (beyond GCSE) were "essential" rose by 20%, so your child will be interested to know how they are enhancing their future job prospects. It might also help to point out that 50% of graduates with a maths degree go on to earn a salary of more than £29k, compared to only 9% of the general population.
With strong maths qualifications, your child will be in demand in the modern economy, and able to create a strong and rewarding, well paid career. And they'll never buy far too much wallpaper by mistake - bonus. What's not to love about maths?
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