Reprinted with permission from Homeschool.com

“Math,” (Yikes!)... For some of us, this simple word sends a shiver up our spine as those long ago tormented years in math classes come back in a wave of consciousness so strong we can still smell the musty text books and #2 pencils. As parents we desire to help our children learn and understand how they will one day come to use math in their everyday lives. How, then, do we get past our nightmarish math memories to the point where, while educating our children, we too can overcome the hesitations and learn to enjoy math?

Have you ever thought of “math” as beautiful, imaginative or alive? Most only think of math as numbers to be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. Wherein we may teach children how to manipulate numbers, like when balancing a checkbook, parents seldom show their children how mathematics occurs in nature or in architecture. Perhaps this is because they were never shown these simple, everyday connections.

Theoni Pappas, author of Fractals, Googols and Other Mathematical Tales, delivers a unique approach to math in that she emphasizes the beauty and hidden wonders of mathematics. Instead of focusing solely on numbers, she attempts to open eyes to the incredible mathematical patterns that appear naturally in the world. She probes deeply into observations of things like spider webs, sunflowers, leaf patterns and coastlines. Most importantly, Ms. Pappas takes readers into a world where math is not only beautiful but also awe-inspiring and fun.

Homeschool.com consulted with Theoni Pappas. We asked her for advice on how parents can overcome their own math phobias in order to help their children discover the joy of mathematics. Her suggestions were simple and constructive.

1. **DON’T LET YOUR FEAR OF MATH COME ACROSS
TO YOUR KIDS**. Parents must be careful not to perpetuate
the mathematical myth - that math is only for specially talented “math
types.” Strive not to make comments like; “they don’t like math” or “I
have never been good at math.” When children overhear comments like these
from their primary role models they begin to dread math before even considering
a chance of experiencing its wonders. It is important to encourage your
children to read and explore the rich world of mathematics, and to practice
mathematics without imparting negative biases.

2. **DON’T IMMEDIATELY ASSOCIATE MATH WITH COMPUTATION
(COUNTING).** It is very important to realize that math
is not just numbers and computations, but a realm of exciting ideas that
touch every part of our lives—from making a telephone call to how the hair
grows on someone’s head. Take your children outside and point out real
objects that display math concepts. For example, show them the symmetry
of a leaf or angles on a building. Take a close look at the spirals in
a spider web or intricate patterns of a snowflake.

3. **HELP YOUR CHILD UNDERSTAND WHY MATH IS IMPORTANT**.
Math improves problem solving, increases competency and should be applied
in different ways. It’s the same as reading. You can learn the basics of
reading without ever enjoying a novel. But, where’s the excitement in that?
With math, you could stop with the basics. But why when there is so much
more to be gained by a fuller understanding? Life is so much more enriching
when we go beyond the basics. Stretch your children’s minds to become involved
in mathematics in ways that will not only be practical but also enhance
their lives.

4.** MAKE MATH AS “HANDS ON” AS POSSIBLE**.
Mathematicians participate in mathematics. To really experience math encourage
your child to dig in and tackle problems in creative ways. Help them learn
how to manipulate numbers using concrete references they understand as
well as things they can see or touch. Look for patterns everywhere, explore
shapes and symmetries. How many octagons do you see each day on the way
to the grocery store? Play math puzzles and games and then encourage your
child to try to invent their own. And, whenever possible, help your child
realize a mathematical conclusion with real and tangible results. For example,
measure out a full glass of juice with a measuring cup and then ask your
child to drink half. Measure what is left. Does it measure half of a cup?

5. **READ BOOKS THAT MAKE MATH EXCITING.**

—Fractals, Googols and Other Mathematical Tales (http://www.amazon.com) introduces an animated cat who explains fractals, tangrams and other mathematical concepts you’ve probably never heard of to children in terms they can understand. This book can double as a great text book by using one story per lesson.

—A Wrinkle in Time (http://www.amazon. com) is a well-loved classic, combining fantasy and science.

—The Joy of Mathematics (http://www. amazon.com) helps adults explore the beauty of mathematics that is all around.

—The Math Curse (http://www.amazon. com) is an amusing book for 4-8 year olds.

—The Gnarly Gnews (http://www. gnarlymath.com/news/gnews1_1.html) is a free, humorous bi-monthly newsletter on mathematics.

—The Phantom Tollbooth (http://www. amazon.com) is an Alice in Wonderland-style adventure into the worlds of words and numbers.

6.** USE THE INTERNET TO HELP YOUR CHILD EXPLORE
THE FASCINATING WORLD OF MATHEMATICS**.

—Web Math (http://www.webmath.com) provides a powerful set of math-solvers that gives you instant answers to the stickiest problems.

—Math League (http://www.mathleague. com) has challenging math materials and contests for fourth grade and above.

—Silver Burdett Ginn Mathematics (http://www.sbgmath.com/index.html) offers Internet-based math activities for grades K-6.

—Math Prose (http://www.mathprose. com) introduces short, educational math stories.

—The Gallery of Interactive Geometry (http://www.geom.umn.edu/apps/gallery. html) is full of fascinating, interactive geometry activities.