Math isn’t everyone’s favorite subject. Maybe you had the math teacher that would slap down a packet of blank multiplication problems, turn their timer to 5 minutes, and expect the answers to miraculously flow from the tip of your pencil.
School can present math as training. Children recite times tables, rehearse PEMDAS, and plug into formulas in a misinformed attempt to help students absorb math’s basic concepts. At Math Circles of Chicago, we understand that math can be just as fun and liberating as finger painting. When you treat math more like art, you create a space for joy and genuine interest.
Math in school is often rushed. Students can feel anxious because they are told they need to go fast in school. School can make students feel like life will be filled with make or break moments in which PEMDAS could save your life.
When we go fast, we cut out critical thinking and student agency. Students passively get trained to perform procedures, rather than having the space to explore and think about their own ideas. Math tutoring can be well intentioned, but still promote the same anxieties.
There’s a lot more to math than what’s taught in school. Math can be connected to art, to civics, to science. There are topics that can be understood by younger students–graph theory, continued fractions, symmetry, etc –that are fun, exciting, but that school doesn’t have time for. That’s where math enrichment comes in!
Most people look for math tutoring to try to repair their child’s relationship with math, build skills, and improve confidence. Math enrichment is perhaps a better way to achieve these ends, by helping students to respond to unusual situations, to make connections between different branches of mathematics, and by expanding students’ math repertoire in a way that school or math tutoring do not. If you’ve tried math tutoring and it isn’t helping your child, consider math enrichment!
Your kid doesn’t have to hate math–and neither do you for that matter. The most confident kids in gym class are the ones who are playing sports–out of school, or on the school team. Someone who goes to an art summer camp brings what they learn back to the classroom. In the same way, a math circle student gets more experience, and that becomes part of their ‘prior knowledge’. It makes school easier.
Over and over again, our after school teachers and parents report that their math circle students have greater confidence when speaking about new math concepts.
“I love it when M. comes home and is confident and wants to share a new concept. For example, last week he learned about what day of the week it would be on a certain date in the future. He knew how, and he loved teaching us.”
Take a look at our math programs and summer camps taking place in Chicago this summer! Come next school year, your student will have the confidence to apply that math to any aspect of their lives in and out of the classroom.