For the past few months I have been tutoring my oldest daughter in her Accounting II and Statistics class for her Business Degree – and then I spent this evening helping my son study for his Algebra final for his Environmental Science degree. Since I have a degree in Math and an MBA – I figured this would be the right thing to do — and besides, she asked me! When she was in high school and needed help, she would run to her nearest friend’s house when I would offer to help. It seems my children would rather be run over by a train than have me help them with their math. My kids always just wanted to guess at the answer and not do any of the steps to get to it – which didn’t usually work out very well for them. They always felt I was making them take too much time to do a problem — when they knew what the answer should be (usually by looking in the back of the book).
It isn’t because I’m a bad teacher – actually when they accept my help they tend to do pretty well. I’m pretty sure the problem isn’t my teaching style – it’s my ‘not doing your homework for you’ style. Yep — I’m one of ‘those’ parents who believes that the only way a child can learn is if the child does the math themselves – and they do LOTS of it. Repetition is the key in math – you can’t just do one problem and expect to understand the concept – and that’s what kids don’t like. Add that to all of the distractions and the inability to understand where they use algebra or trigonometry in their every day lives – and you are headed towards a numbers meltdown!
The thing to remember about math is that it isn’t about the numbers. I know — that sounds strange since that’s ALL there is in math – but the real power of math is logic — you know, that thing that Mr. Spock is always telling Captain Kirk to use – logic – the ability to see the progression to a solution, the ability to make sense out of a situation, the ability to analyze a situation and determine the outcomes. That’s really what math is all about. If you master mathematics, you open a world where you are able to look at any problem – not just math problems — but problems involving every day situations – and determine the best way to approach the problem.
Logic is involved in everything we do — from finding our way to work in the morning to playing our computer games at night. It is involved in our interactions with others and how we understand what we are reading in our newspapers and books. Logic is gives us a sense of our place in the world and how we can make it better. When we understand a sequence of events and the possible outcomes, we make better decisions in our lives – that is logic.
So – yes – my brain is a little fried right now from swimming in numbers for the last couple of weeks – but I know that the knowledge I helped my children gain wasn’t just about passing a test or understanding how to solve an algebraic equation – it was about giving them the tools to live a better life, to solve life’s problems and as Mr. Spock would say “to be logical” in the way they approach the challenges in their lives.