“Mommmmm, why do I have to do math? I don’t understand! When am I EVER going to use this???”
If you’ve ever heard your kid ask a version of “Why do math?”, don’t worry. You’re not alone–you may have said it yourself as a kid! Whenever we struggle with something, we often want to know “Why am I even doing this, anyway?
So here’s my cheat sheet of answers for you! Keep these handy the next time you need to explain “Why do I have to do math?” to your child.
Math really is everywhere we look. No, not math equations, but things we observe in our homes and in the world all point back to math concepts. A good picture? Probably composed with the Golden Ratio. That shell they love at the beach? A prime example of The Fibonacci Sequence.
Another prime example: virtually anything we use or make is based on principles of geometry. Do they love to travel and see cool buildings and bridges and sculptures? Do they like dance, great theater sets, dramatic lighting? That’s geometry (and physics) in action! We can also observe examples of symmetry and dimension everywhere, and pointing that out to kids can make it come alive.
I know, I know. This one gets trotted out all the time, but it’s true! Everyone benefits from knowing math. Want to cook? You need to know math. Want to catch the good sales? You’ll know it’s a good one if you can work percentages. Need to figure a tip or split a check at the restaurant? Everyone appreciates the person who can do that quickly and without whipping out their phone.
There really, truly is no escaping math in life. Maybe your kid isn’t headed to engineering school, but even the “artsiest” of jobs require math (remember those great pictures and well-choreographed dances in point 1?). Problem-solving skills and the ability to make connections are vital in every field.
Have you ever watched a young child draw math pictures for their lesson, play with the teddy bear counters you’ll find in Saxon K-2, or make shapes using tangrams? What about a child using a compass for the first time, spinning it around, and making perfect circles? They love it.
Solving equations may not be the most enjoyable thing for a child to do, but playing with math is a blast. If you can, give them plenty of time to spend in those lessons where they get to truly play with new concepts. They’ll make connections and, more importantly, enjoy the learning process.
Math is one of the few subjects where you have to think abstractly AND concretely, given the topic. Math studies help wire your brain to use many different parts and “light up” in areas that it wouldn’t otherwise. And that’s a good thing!
Consider that much of math has to do with planning and strategy… and then think about if you want your teenager to be able to have those skills as they learn to drive a car and navigate the world. Yes, please!
1 + 1 has the same answer whether you are in America, Japan, or Ghana. Pi? Always 3.14. Math may not be a spoken language, but math principles apply no matter where you are on the planet. And that is both comforting and practical. We can appreciate different ways cultures apply math and its principles, and we can find same-ness among us, too.
Math as a universal language helps us to recognize how very similar we are to other humans, regardless of where we live or what we look like. Math as a way to build compassion? Yes! It’s true.
Why do math? I’ve really only touched on a few reasons here but I hope it’s helpful to you when you hear the question from a math-resistant kid. It really does have important implications for their future, it’s fun (really), and it is so very good for our brains. Math has been around since ancient times and will always be a universal language that everyone can understand. Yay, Math!
How do YOU answer the question: “Why do Math?” I’d love to hear. Share with me in the comments below!
Talk to you soon,