Math a Conceptual Language

Mathematics is a language,and like any language, it requires relevance to a situation before retention and cognitive understanding evolves. It is of little use teaching Math out of context, and unfortunately too much education still takes place in isolation, Math included.

To help your child with any Math problem or process, it is necessary to create circumstances to real life situations; situations which the child encounters during daily experiences. If, for example you are teaching the addition process, then use materials with which the child is familiar. Never teach the process before the concept is understood. Numbers mean nothing to a youngmind if they are not translated into real objects. The number one, for example, must be associated with many different singular objects. Once the child realises there can be one apple, one orange etc, it is easier to progress onto two and so on.

Every process in Math needs a reason. If dealing with money for example; the coins or notes must been seen to have value in respect to other objects. Teaching money as a process in isolation only causes greater difficulty when harder examples are attempted later on. It is no good initially adding $1.30 and $1.40 if there is no value to the process. It is far better to place a price on two objects, simple to begin with of course, combine the objects,then, and only then use numeric symbols to create a total. You are teaching the cognitive understanding of a process, and not just the process itself.

If we are to advance into slightly higher Math, we can use the same principle. Refer to my article on Algebra in an earlier article. where apples and bananas are replaced with ‘a’ and ‘b’. If we teach the concept, the process is easy. It is when we teach the process, without the concept being understood that problems arise.

Subtraction or taking away, while the same, would have a different connotation to a young mind if the child did not understand the principle of portions on a plate getting less as you eat. (Simple example) Taking away food by eating it, is the same as subtracting food. While the concept is being taught, so the process and its accompanying language is also being taught. If you have two potatoes on a plate and you eat one, you only have one left. If you have two potatoes on a plate and you subtract one, you only have one left.

It does not matter what process, or Math topic is being taught, always make sure that the student understands the concept, and where possible relate the concept to something relevant in day to day living.