I used to be one of those disgruntled teenagers in math class wondering aloud when I would ever have to use this absurd algebraic equation in real life. It’s probably the most common complaint amongst kids and teens learning complicated math lessons. To be honest, I hear the same thing from adults every now and again, when they crack jokes about the last time they needed algebra or geometry.
As I matured, I began to understand the real reason why math is taught in school a little better. I think it finally hit me when I heard Neil Tyson say this,
Math isn’t about the math. It’s about logic. Learning math at a young age trains your mind to think logically; to approach problems logically, whether they be math problems or real-life problems. It trains you to think in a certain way, to see all the pieces of a puzzle before they’re brought together. Math, after literacy, is the most important thing you can learn over anything else in the curriculum.
I wish I’d understood this when I was a teenager, but no teacher ever bothered to explain it to me or any of my classmates. I don’t even know that the teachers understood why they were teaching math. Instead, we sat in rows, in silence, and stared at black and white copies of worksheets with nothing but numbers on them. This is no way to learn, nor to promote the value of mathematics.
I have long thought that teaching math and logical thinking should be done in a more real-world way. Presenting real-world problems that are solved with logical thinking and mathematics and rather than having the children sit in rows silently working on their own, they should solve the problems on their feet, hands-on, helping each other. Children should be able to see the relationship between what they are learning, and how it will benefit them in the real world for years to come.
With that said, I do believe anything, literally anything, is an improvement in the way we teach math. At my son’s school, they’ve begun using the web site SumDog.
SumDog is a web site for students learning math, that engages them with exciting and fun games. It assesses the skill level of each student in the beginning and offers games that suit those skills. The games are beautiful and addictive.
Last week, my son was sent home sick. I was called to the school to come pick him up. When we got back home that day, he seemed super sad that he had to leave school, so I asked him why. He explained that it was computer day and he was going to miss it. When I inquired as to what they did on the computers these days, he told me SumDog. When asked what it was, he told me “math games”. He was missing math.
He was upset because he was missing math.
A couple of days later at the dinner table, he told me his favourite thing to learn at school was multiplication. This was a complete 180 to his previous attitudes toward math, and the only thing that had changed was SumDog.
If you’re having trouble getting your kids to learn math or enjoy it, set them up with a SumDog account. For a long time, I’ve known that video games, like Zelda and the Lego series, teach precisely the same skills as elementary school math because you have to get through a series of logical problems before you can win the game. Now, we have games like the ones at SumDog that specifically set out to not just teach math and logical thinking, but that also cultivate a love for it.
SumDog also offers writing and reading games, and it tracks your child’s progress through each of these skills. You will be kept up to date on your child’s progress, as well.
SumDog offers incentives to children with rewards and growth in ranks. They earn coins and can use them to purchase items for their “house” or their “pet”. They can also buy new clothes and accessories for their avatar.
SumDog is available on iOS and the web. The cost of a premium membership, which offers more games, is just $6 per child per month.
Have you tried SumDog? What did you think?