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What if your child had no interest in math?

post #1 of 130
Thread Starter 
And I don't mean just workbooks. What if he/she wasn't interested in board games that involved any kind of computation, even if it was roll to die at once or oral number games? What if he or she didn't like to bake? What if he or she wasn't interested in keeping track of the allowance or measuring anything, budgetting with the family, saving up for anything and so on?

Everything I read suggests that if a child is not interested in formal math,
the real world math will be unavoidable--board games and bakind being the favorites.

How comfortable are you with your child showing no interest in anything math related? Until what age?
post #2 of 130
I can't imagine a world where basic math would not appear in some facet or another... even if one hated cooking, board games and number games. My 4 yo's desire for chewing gum has got him sorting and counting from the change jar. And when he knows that with 2 of the "big" coins he would need for one of those motorised kiddie rides he can actually buy a playmobil pirate. And I was blown away by the basic calculations that were needed for an ordinary video game that my 7yo cousin was playing... it almost made want to run out and buy a gaming system NOW.

If nothing else, I think the desire to consume and/or make choices about consumption would win out over complete disinterest. And as the desire for more expensive things surfaces, the calculations become more complex. The truth is, that's the kind of math I use in my day-to-day life.

That being said, I know I've read great articles about the myriad of ways that a family can incorporate mathematical thought/language/reasoning into their daily life, but I can't remember where. They were enough to make me feel quite relaxed although math had previously been my big worry. And I began to wonder if my math phobia stems from being "taught" math (I've completed classes through calculus in university but can't attack even basic algebra now without hunting information).

Maybe someone else can post some good links?
post #3 of 130
Thread Starter 
[QUOTE]
Quote:
Originally Posted by JuniperBCN View Post
I can't imagine a world where basic math would not appear in some facet or another... even if one hated cooking, board games and number games.
How much of basic math is "enough"? If a child can do single digit addition and subtraction, on his fingers, is this enough of basic math? For a 6 year old? 9 year old? 14 year old?


Quote:
If nothing else, I think the desire to consume and/or make choices about consumption would win out over complete disinterest. And as the desire for more expensive things surfaces, the calculations become more complex.
If nothing of that sort has surfaced, at what age would you worry if at all?

I'm most interested to hear from parents whose children have / had no interest in math above very basic counting, single digit addition and subtraction until they were "behind" by grade standards, like age 9, 10, 11 or older. How did you feel about it?
post #4 of 130
Much of my son's hands on math is related to legos or video games, rather than baking or board games. He is interested in saving money for things but he'd be annoyed if I tried to make that into a lesson or tried guiding him to figuring it out. He might ask me how many weeks of allowance he needs to save to have enough for a $40 item. I'll answer "Let's see... $5 times 8 is $40. It'll take 8 weeks" rather than "Well, what is $40 divided by 5?" When he asks me a question, he either doesn't know or he thinks he knows but wants to confirm he is right. Sometimes he is cagey about why he is asking and he'll ask something like "what times 5 equals 40?" Hey, look he's asking me an algebra question!

Anyway, I'm not sure how you know if your dc isn't interested in anything math? If you are asking him direct questions or not answering his questions because you are trying to get him to figure it out, he may be acting resistant to that. My guy sure would. And then he'd stop asking me questions, too, because he'd loose faith that I would answer him. He's also very sensitive to other people's agendas. If he thinks I'm suggesting something because I want him to do it, it's a no go.

My answering his questions whenever he asks keeps that trust open and allows him to absorb math concepts and self check his theories in a comfortable way (my ds hates demonstrating any knowledge he isn't very sure about). It's just like how I read things whenever he asked (rather than guiding him to sound them out, a method not suited to his learning style) and he eventually stopped asking because he could read them himself.

I was a little surprised the other day when ds's friend, another unschooler, responded with "I don't do math" when I called a lego brick a 2X4. I didn't feel like I was talking math, lol, just calling the brick by size like we always do. I don't know why that was his first response to hearing numbers, maybe something to do with being previously schooled or having people quizzing him (his cousins do that while knocking homeschooling, I'm told). My ds gets quite a bit of math practice by building with legos.

The other big one for him is computer/video games. So many of them involve accruing points and then buying equipment/weapons, just like having an allowance and spending it. Ds learned place values (10s, 100s, 100s, etc) from these games as well.

I can see another child might make patterns by stringing beads into a necklace. That's math. A young child is doing math when he lines up blocks or toy cars. Even if he isn't counting them, he's seeing how far they stretch, a type of measuring. I really don't understand how anyone can not do math, even if they tried.
post #5 of 130
[QUOTE=midnightwriter;15930127]
Quote:
I'm most interested to hear from parents whose children have / had no interest in math above very basic counting, single digit addition and subtraction until they were "behind" by grade standards, like age 9, 10, 11 or older. How did you feel about it?
Fine.

As long as my ds understands math on a conceptual level, I'm not concerned about arithmetic or having math facts memorized. Doing multi digit math problems is just knowing how to break it down into single digits and then putting it back together again.
post #6 of 130
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post
Much of my son's hands on math is related to legos or video games, rather than baking or board games. He is interested in saving money for things but he'd be annoyed if I tried to make that into a lesson or tried guiding him to figuring it out. He might ask me how many weeks of allowance he needs to save to have enough for a $40 item. I'll answer "Let's see... $5 times 8 is $40. It'll take 8 weeks" rather than "Well, what is $40 divided by 5?" When he asks me a question, he either doesn't know or he thinks he knows but wants to confirm he is right. Sometimes he is cagey about why he is asking and he'll ask something like "what times 5 equals 40?" Hey, look he's asking me an algebra question!

Anyway, I'm not sure how you know if your dc isn't interested in anything math? If you are asking him direct questions or not answering his questions because you are trying to get him to figure it out, he may be acting resistant to that. My guy sure would. And then he'd stop asking me questions, too, because he'd loose faith that I would answer him. He's also very sensitive to other people's agendas. If he thinks I'm suggesting something because I want him to do it, it's a no go.

My answering his questions whenever he asks keeps that trust open and allows him to absorb math concepts and self check his theories in a comfortable way (my ds hates demonstrating any knowledge he isn't very sure about). It's just like how I read things whenever he asked (rather than guiding him to sound them out, a method not suited to his learning style) and he eventually stopped asking because he could read them himself.

I was a little surprised the other day when ds's friend, another unschooler, responded with "I don't do math" when I called a lego brick a 2X4. I didn't feel like I was talking math, lol, just calling the brick by size like we always do. I don't know why that was his first response to hearing numbers, maybe something to do with being previously schooled or having people quizzing him (his cousins do that while knocking homeschooling, I'm told). My ds gets quite a bit of math practice by building with legos.

The other big one for him is computer/video games. So many of them involve accruing points and then buying equipment/weapons, just like having an allowance and spending it. Ds learned place values (10s, 100s, 100s, etc) from these games as well.

I can see another child might make patterns by stringing beads into a necklace. That's math. A young child is doing math when he lines up blocks or toy cars. Even if he isn't counting them, he's seeing how far they stretch, a type of measuring. I really don't understand how anyone can not do math, even if they tried.
This a very typical, very beautiful unschooling response. This is something that we hear all the time on unschooling forums, and something that I would usually say myself, if I were discussing unschooling math. Math is everywhere. It is unavoidable. Don't test or ask trick questions, answer questions, don't push your agenda, let them own the process, there's no such thing as 'behind', we all learn what is relevant to us at the moment and so on. Children do math without knowing it.

It is all true, for most children, maybe even for all children, to some extent.

But the question is, what if a child is of a certain age, and can't do basic math when he or she needs it? One can build with legos without needing to call them 2x4s. One can play video games with a basic idea of "bigger number" and "smaller number", without counting with more precision. What if you need to count your change, and you can't do? Because all you know is single digits addition on your fingers, and you have a fist full of coins, and you can't count to a 100?

At what age this becomes a problem? Or does this still fall into the category of not being relevant to a child? After all, I might think it is relevant to me to count a fistfull of change, but a child might think that it is just some coins, who cares. Not everyone is materialistic, after all. The real need would be if that child was starving, and needed to see if his coins were enough for a piece of bread. But this is not the reality of the vast majority of North American unschoolers.
post #7 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by midnightwriter View Post
At what age this becomes a problem?
Realistically, it may never be a problem. Unless they decide to do formal schooling at some point or pick a math heavy career. I never use that much math, myself. The concept of more and less, takes you far. The cashier always counts the money (so counting currency skills would be important if your dc becomes a cashier. I do think that skill could be picked up in a weekend, if not a couple hours, by most people old enough to work who are lacking the skill). Most people use credit cards, anyway. I don't balance my accounts to the penny. The IRS doesn't want me to fill out tax forms to the penny, either. And they let me know whenever I make a mistake. No doubt doing them by hand won't even be an option by the time our kids are grown. Everybody will have cell phones with internet access and calculators (most people already seem to!). I round up and round down and my ball park figures are close enough for my needs. I can always call the bank or check online for exact figures, if necessary. Fractions were useful when I was a picture framer. I got better at them quickly because I was motivated and it had meaning for me in that context. But even then, it was usually "easy" fractions like 2 1/2 plus 2 1/2 equalling 5. I don't even measure carefully when I bake.

That being said. I'm fine with doing math and took it in school through calculus. But I think I lack basic understanding and mostly learned how to memorize formulas, pick which one to use, and plug in numbers. Hence, I'm more concerned with ds understanding concepts than doing arithmetic. If civilization and technology fall apart, maybe it will be an issue, but we'll have bigger fish to fry and I'm not going to make him memorize the multiplication tables just in case that comes to pass.

I'd worry if I thought my ds's apparent inability to do math stemmed from a learning disability. If he was trying repeatedly to do age appropriate math, failing at it and frustrated. Or if he was working hard to avoid those situations. But I have seen nothing in my ds to indicate he has any sort of difficulty. So I'm not worried about him in the least and it is, of course, up to you to determine if you should be concerned about your own dc. Kids are so different and there are many different reasons for different kids to do the same thing. One child may be a late reader because he is dyslexic. Another child may simply be a late reader.
post #8 of 130
Is this a question about an actual kid, or a hypothetical kid? I think my answer would depend on a lot of things... does the kid seem uncomfortable with her lack of numerical skills? Has she had negative experiences with numbers in the past? How does she feel about not being able to do more complex arithmetic? Does she have math skills that aren't related to numeracy (the Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, for example, is a great computer game with tons of math but no numbers, as far as I recall)?

In 8th grade, when my kid took the SAT, she was really behind most kids her age in arithmetic skills, I'm sure... but she was way ahead of them in SAT math, which allowed her to use a calculator. Since then she's "caught up", I guess... although to be fair, she did like to play with numbers when she was pretty small (mostly adding large numbers and figuring out what she could buy with her Chuck E Cheese tickets) so it wasn't like she was only counting on her fingers before that.

I guess I would also ask about how "mathy" the parents felt that they were... I think parents who are afraid of math or feel that they're not good at it can pass on those sorts of messages about math. What are parents modeling? Do they talk "math" - just naturally, I tend to comment about stuff like prices and gas mileage, and I'm a bargain hunter so I always talk about percentages off, and things like average come up a lot, and it's hard to explain to a kid what it means that a child it average height for his age without some sort of math, whether it's conceptual (without numbers) or arithmetic.

So, those would be my thoughts.
post #9 of 130
If by 10 years old they couldn't do most life math- money, basic fractions, area, circumference, percents, and tax/basic interest - I would probably be worried. I wouldn't care if they had to use a calculator for speed, but they should know how to compute those things without one.
post #10 of 130
Basic math skills needed for life:

add
subtract
multiply
divide
estimate
basic fractions
percentages
decimals
tell time

I would not be a happy camper if a young adult about to fly the nest did not know the above. I consider them life skills. As for when to introduce them if they have not acquired them - I am not so sure. 15 or 16 perhaps? It does not take long to learn the above if you are motivated.

Honestly, I think the question is almost moot. Adolescents have a strong natural desire to prepare for adulthood - they really will want to know these things. Once they hit a certain age there will be no resistance to learning these things - and if there is, you have bigger fish to fry (and perhaps counselling would be in order....not wanting to acquire basic adult life skills is not usual).

Now, many kids will feel the need to go beyond this. Once again, as they start to prepare for their adult life, and think about what they want to do in life, they may find a certain level of math is needed to get them there.

I will say this desire to do stuff as preparation for adult life did not hit my son until about 13. It has not hit my other kids yet...who very much live in the present. YMMV
post #11 of 130
My daughter is 9 and probably "behind" in terms of where she would be in school for math. She doesn't have a lot of natural interest in/attraction to math and mathematical thinking.

However, she did reach a point where her desire to understand and manipulate numbers in her daily life was beyond her arithmetic skills--so she asked if we could put some attention into "doing math." So now she is gradually working her way through Singapore math, which is beefing up her basic skills and also giving her some more confidence.

And although I am a self-described unschooler, I don't see anything wrong with having a conversation with my kids that goes something like, "I notice you're having trouble adding money to figure out how much you need to buy that toy. Would it be a good idea to spend some time practicing some of those math skills?" In our house, we spend a lot of time talking together about what we want to be learning and working on, and how to make that happen. I think one of my most important jobs as a parent is to be a resource and advisor, and to cultivate a relationship with my kids so that we can work together collaboratively.

I agree entirely that older kids want to be skilled and competent adults, and are very interested in acquiring what they need to get there. The path is just very different than in a traditional school curriculum.
post #12 of 130
I can't imagine someone avoiding math so stringently unless they had some kind of negative experience with it like having a barbie that says "math is hard" or having their cousins quiz them repeatedly about what math they know. And even then it'd have to be in combination with their parent telling them "lets do X, it'll teach you math" to explain avoiding all math related activities.


: I have a friend who literally throws away his change. He'll shove it in his pocket and then pull it out and toss it into a trash can the next time he passes one.
post #13 of 130
Math is unavoidable. It's everywhere and we often do it without realizing what we are doing.

I personally cannot stand algebra. I get annoyed even THINKING about the algebra formulas I was forced to learn when I was a teenager...but I still DO algebra unknowingly when I sew, craft, or play a video game. Eventually every child is probably going to want to do something related to money so they'll pick it up. Or maybe they'll just pick it up from watching you.

If you really want to get some interest I'd look for some cool number tricks...you know, like the puzzles where you can guess the number a person is thinking of, that kinda stuff. Like..think of a number, add this, subtract that, multiply by so-and-so...is it such-and-such? Kids usually eat that stuff up, particularly boys in my experience because it's kinda like magic.

I LOVED this book as a child: http://www.amazon.com/Math-Smarty-Pa.../dp/0590489402 And I wasn't into math at all!
post #14 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiderMum View Post
I LOVED this book as a child: http://www.amazon.com/Math-Smarty-Pa.../dp/0590489402 And I wasn't into math at all!
Oooh, that looks nice. I put it on my wishlist.
post #15 of 130
I have been thinking about the OP, and I am getting the sense that you really want an age at which people should begin to worry.

I have been on this forum for a while, and I have noticed a pattern. With young children (under 10) the advice is almost always:

as long as the children are happy with their level, and no LD seem at play - let it go. They will get it when they need to. From my experience this is sound advice and works most of the time.

From time to time we get an person with older teens (15 plus) whose child really does not know what they need to know to move forward in their life, and people always start talking about structured programs to help the child along (from tutors, to schools, etc.)

based on the above, plus what we know about child development (that children need to play; that teens want to know things that will help them along as adult), I would say the time to re-evaluate whether USing is the correct path is around 14 or 15.

I know that may seem shockingly late to people with younger kids or non-USer -but I really have seem kids blossom academically in early to mid teen - when they are ready for it. Patience, I think, is essential to USing younger kids, lol.

HTH

Kathy
post #16 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post
I know that may seem shockingly late to people with younger kids or non-USer -but I really have seem kids blossom academically in early to mid teen - when they are ready for it.
I'd even take this a step further and say that I've seen a whole *lot* of kids blossom academically during that period - it seems really, really common to me. That time period ties in nicely to Piaget's stuff, too, because he said that's when kids generally hit the formal operations stage.
post #17 of 130
Yes, I agree with Dar and kathymuggle. There are really three types of interest in math that a kid might develop.

There's a basic interest in math as a part of daily life, in how it crops up in the immediate sense, in board games or in measurement or finances, with its ready applicability. Most kids develop enough of this interest between the ages of 3 and 12 that they become proficient at chequebook math

Then there's that interest that many of us hope our kids will develop, the interest that springs from the beautiful tidy logic and intellectual challenge of math. The interest that has a kid bouncing up and down with excitement when she sees that simplifying an improper fraction is totally analogous to constructing or deconstructing a unit of higher place value, or drives another child to ask for algebraic type math problems in the car for fun. Some kids get that interest; some don't. I don't think it's a big deal if they don't, because there's a third type of interest that usually springs up eventually, typically in the teen years.

Finally there's interest in math as a means to an end. The end might be the GED or SATs, or studying mechanical engineering, or earning the pre-requisite to get into a computer programming course. Or it might be even more abstract: to develop the academic and intellectual competence that the teen deems appropriate for self-sufficient adult life.

My 14-year-old ds had a lot of the first type of interest and mastered pretty much all the K-7 math by the time he was 10. Unlike my dd's, he's had little of the second type of interest. But he's just hit his stride with the third type of interest. He is now, by his own choice, working through high school math courses at home despite having zero interest in formal academics up until the past couple of months. My eldest had a similar renewed interest in math at about the same age.

Miranda
post #18 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
Yes, I agree with Dar and kathymuggle. There are really three types of interest in math that a kid might develop.

There's a basic interest in math as a part of daily life, in how it crops up in the immediate sense, in board games or in measurement or finances, with its ready applicability. Most kids develop enough of this interest between the ages of 3 and 12 that they become proficient at chequebook math

Then there's that interest that many of us hope our kids will develop, the interest that springs from the beautiful tidy logic and intellectual challenge of math. The interest that has a kid bouncing up and down with excitement when she sees that simplifying an improper fraction is totally analogous to constructing or deconstructing a unit of higher place value, or drives another child to ask for algebraic type math problems in the car for fun. Some kids get that interest; some don't. I don't think it's a big deal if they don't, because there's a third type of interest that usually springs up eventually, typically in the teen years.

Finally there's interest in math as a means to an end. The end might be the GED or SATs, or studying mechanical engineering, or earning the pre-requisite to get into a computer programming course. Or it might be even more abstract: to develop the academic and intellectual competence that the teen deems appropriate for self-sufficient adult life.
I found this post really helpful. I'm not at any of these points yet, but I like how you've separated it and it makes a lot of sense...I'm filing it away for future reference.

I think one tool parents also need to remember is modeling. How often do kids really see us use math skills? Recently a friend and I were taking measurements of a doll so we could make clothing for it...and our toddlers insisted on getting involved. They copied our movements and measured the different parts of the dolls themselves. Were they older, I'm sure we could have talked a bit more about numbers and what they meant in that context.

So next time you need to balance the checkbook....plop right down beside them at the table and work on it. Bonus points for talking to yourself as you work "hmmm...$12.50...plus $27.32 is....." Next time you need to rearrange the furniture, don't just eyeball it as many of us do, get out the measuring tape! Ask your kids for help. "Hey sweetie, can you hold this against that wall for me? Thanks!" They may ask you what on earth you're doing and want to help more. Kids like tape measures in general, by the way. If you've never done math puzzles or math games...now is the time to start playing them YOURSELF...they might just get interested in it because you're interested in it also.
post #19 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post
Realistically, it may never be a problem. Unless they decide to do formal schooling at some point or pick a math heavy career. I never use that much math, myself. The concept of more and less, takes you far. The cashier always counts the money (so counting currency skills would be important if your dc becomes a cashier. I do think that skill could be picked up in a weekend, if not a couple hours, by most people old enough to work who are lacking the skill).
.
I really disagree. I teach and tutor at a community college and I see a lot of adults struggle with even the lowest level remedial math. It takes a LOT of practice for them to catch up. Most are not becoming engineers, they are trying to get into 2 year degree programs that lead to better paying jobs.

There are a few exceptions, but most people do not pick it up in a couple of hours.
post #20 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by marybethorama View Post
I really disagree. I teach and tutor at a community college and I see a lot of adults struggle with even the lowest level remedial math. It takes a LOT of practice for them to catch up. Most are not becoming engineers, they are trying to get into 2 year degree programs that lead to better paying jobs.

There are a few exceptions, but most people do not pick it up in a couple of hours.
Are you talking about people who were unschooled?
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