My memories of math being fun go way back to early childhood. I don’t recall the exact age at which I started begging my dad for math problems, but it was definitely years before I started school. Perhaps not surprisingly, the problems that he would give me (and my sister) were not like any that we would ever encounter in school. They were mostly little logic puzzles, often with fun stories attached to them. Tales of knights and knaves (aka truthtellers and liars), pirates weighing and dividing gold, friends wanting to fairly cut a cake, and the like. We also did quite a bit of mental math, which may not sound as exciting, but we really enjoyed the tricks my dad would show us and try to come up with ones of our own.
One thing, however, that I do not remember at all from my early years, is sitting down to specifically do math. All of these problems were always given to us as a matter of fact, on the go. And in fact, many of my memories from childhood are from being “on the go.” Whether on a train to a different city, on the bus to a friend’s house, or just taking a stroll through the park – these travels were never tedious because my dad had, what seemed like an endless collection of riddles and puzzles to entertain us with.
By contrast, I feel that a lot more of the math that I do with my kids (mainly Katie who is 6.5 years old) is of the sit-down type. It usually starts with “lets do a math activity” or “lets solve a math problem”, and is more often than not initiated by me. Oh, Katie almost always enjoys the activity, or even solving the word problems (as long as they’re not too difficult 🙂 ), but she is a little kid, so if left to her own devices, this is not how she chooses to spend her time.
As for when we’re on the go, Katie generally prefers to daydream or listen to music. Occasionally, she will start up a math conversation on her own, such as this or this, and those usually go way better than the ones that I initiate. So I’m definitely not complaining here – we do plenty of math with Katie and, for the most part, she thinks that math is fun. She even sometimes says that she wants to be a mathematician (along with ballerina, gymnast, and ice cream taster). But I think it is natural for us to want to mimic the things that we think our parents did really well.
Of course, Katie is still quite young and her attitude towards different ways of doing math can still change many times (although hopefully not towards math itself). Also, it is very possible that she will remember her childhood experiences with math quite differently from the way I’m seeing it now.
What types of activities do you do “on the go” with your kids?