Much like bedtime stories, Laura Overdeck created a website, Bedtime Math, to make math fun for kids by making it a part of the nightly routine. She studied astrophysics at Princeton, so number crunching is no big deal for her.
But a recent study published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Functions, reveals what has been discussed for years: that some kids (and adults) have “math anxiety,” which is “a state of discomfort associated with performing mathematical tasks,” according to the study.
Girls had math anxiety more often than boys, which could dissuade girls from pursuing career fields that demand a higher understanding of mathematics. Of the 433 British secondary school students ranging in age from 7 to 10 in the study, math skills were equal irrespective of gender. But on tests the girls fared worse than boys because of math anxiety. The study says “math anxiety was a significant predictor of performance for girls but not for boys.”
Bedtime Math provides a math problem each day for different aged kids. It isn’t a worksheet with math facts, but real-life situations that demand math reasoning to solve. An example from the website: “Little Kids: If your castle has 4 walls, and each wall is made from 4 molded castle shapes, how many castle shapes do you have to make? Bonus: If the walls share a shape where they meet at each corner, how many total shapes do you need now?”
Parents who have some math anxiety themselves might want to figure out the answer or at least the steps to solving the problem before bedtime. The problem-solving is supposed to be fun for parents, much like reading stories is fun.
Unlike a sheet of math facts or calculation problems, real-life math problems demand a logical, systematic approach. Additionally (no pun intended), reading and/or listening skills factor into understanding the problem in the first place. I found some fun problems on Scholastic’s Math Maven Mysteries where the solution strategy is built into a discussion of the problem.
Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist ventured to the Arizona Science Museum recently to explore the MathAlive! exhibit, which is geared to quelling math anxiety for kids and parents as it provides an entertaining and intriguing context for math problem solving.
I also went to check it out, camera in hand.