At the time we were reading one of the Little House books --I forget which one, but I think it was one from the Caroline series-- and we read that Caroline didn't like math. It was said plainly, like that. She didn't like math.
Now, I don't know about you, but when my kids and I read through a book we usually start to identify with the main character. I mean, that's the point of a good book--- suck you in, make you care, etc. And you care because you identify. So there we were reading along, being Caroline, and she announces that she doesn't like math. As if her racism in the Laura series wasn't bad enough. She. Doesn't. Like. Math?
Immediately I saw this as a problem. Statistics used to show that girls' interest (and self-esteem) regarding math and science took a huge dip around puberty or pre-puberty. If you ask me, anything that whacks at a girl's self-esteem needs to be nipped in the bud. Pronto. The exact wrong way to do that? Suck girls into identifying with a female character who doesn't like math.
I'll admit, math gets hard when you start having to remember multiplication facts. It's tedious work. We've been working on it for a long time now. Making progress. Losing progress. Math is a slippery slope. You use it, often, or you lose it. So we've gone round and round with it-- telling stories, playing games, singing songs with math facts, the whole shebang. Even with all that, I still wasn't sure how well it was sticking. I was still convinced she was being Caroline about it. Until today.
Today she was fascinated by the idea of these math problems:
XYZ + AB = CDEFI have to thank my sister for sending them to me. They provoked some interesting discussions about what math is and can be. The idea of a maths riddle was irresistible.
XYZ - AB = BGA
Lately, Sunburst's math skills have taken off on their own. She's five problems away from having the multiplication table memorized, and she's faster at it than I am. She seems to understand it in a way that I never did in school, and I was relatively competent at math. I could memorize. But it was a static, surface relationship. I didn't feel them. Math was never a deep and fluid thing for me. I didn't see numbers as relationships and interrelationships. But in working with Sunburst, I'm starting to get it.
Sunburst doesn't like math. She LOVES it. What's more, she confided to me that she thinks she's good at it. Good. At. Math?
You know, I think she's right.