As parents and educators, we are all fighting to answer the question “How can I get my kids to learn math?” Today’s generation has plenty of distractions to pull their attention away from their math classes or the desire to learn math. With video game sales going through the roof, social media, cable television, fantasy sports and Youtube, who wants to do math?  Parents need to use these “distractions” to lessen the suffering that math brings to children worldwide. 

Video games today are consumed by millions of teenagers and are often seen as nothing more than a distraction.  Today’s video games are not like Super Mario Brothers or Pacman though.  Games keep track of your lifetime statistics, your tendencies, and playing time, as well as awarding you with trophies for different accomplishments throughout the game.  We can send kids on a mission to find out how many zombie kills they average per hour in Call of Duty, how many times they have met their own demise, what their favorite in-game weapon is, and what percentage of the time they use it.  For sports or racing games, they could figure out what their winning percentage is, completion percentage, slugging percentage, or how many hours they play per month.  Madden is the most popular video game franchise in history, selling roughly 1.6 million copies this year.  Within the game, you can scout your online opponents and find their tendencies, as well as your own.  Once you have your child do this, you can talk about what those tendencies mean, and how they can use these tendencies against their opponent.  In addition, this can lead into further conversations about how tendencies are used in everyday life.

Sports are another way to get your child involved in math.  With the baseball season in full swing, you can have your child start calculating their batting average, find their average time in swimming or track, or their average yardage per game in football.  Fantasy sports are full of endless opportunities that can have your child finding solutions to multi-variable linear equations.  In fact, your child can create their own scoring system and get all of their friends involved with a little of your help and some incentive to win. 

 The internet is full of opportunities to teach your child how to do math.  Chances are that if your child is involved in social media, they are probably following Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne, Katy Perry or One Direction. Twitaholic.com lists statistics for these artists and many more, so that your child can start projecting how many times their favorite celeb will be tweeting over the course of the next year, or how many tweets this celeb has made per day since signing up.  In addition, you can then talk about how companies look at the amount of followers a person has in order to use them for sponsorship purposes and marketing.  The same can be done with Youtube videos as well, showing them how Psy became such an overnight sensation.

Lastly, comes the dreaded question that leaves you stammering; “When am I ever going to use this?”  This question can be tough to address because a lot of times, we don’t know the answer.  Instead of answering the question for them, have them research the topic and it’s applications.  If your child has an idea of what they might want to choose for their profession, have them search for applications of current math topics in their field of choice.  

My most successful lessons as a teacher have come when I used the interests of my students to teach math for the day, whether it was finding the average cost of a Louis Vuitton purse, 25 % off sales at Banana Republic (having the student find the cost of an outfit), or using “The Walking Dead” TV show to teach Geometry.  Using these methods will not only inspire your child to do a little work on math, but will also help you to share in your child’s passions as well. 

 

Article Written by Quintan Russell, TLC Lead Math Teacher

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