Is Math Confusing? Only If You're Doin' It Wrong

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My wife has math phobia. Equations and numbers shut her down. But when she solves a problem -- such as how much fabric she'll need to make a skirt with so many folds or whatever -- she jumps up and down and proudly tells me that she "used math to do things!"

That's the thing, see? Math is useful. It's powerful. But too often, we're paralyzed by it.

From what I'm reading, the latest in edutheory suggests a rather complex way of solving a simple math problem like 9+6. You can read a bit more here and click through to an article and a video showing the process. The gist: 6 can become 1 and 5. Add 1 to 9 to make 10. Now your addition problem is an easy one: 10 + 5 = 15.

You probably notice you do a similar thing, yes? Try it.

8 + 7 = ?

Take 2 from 7 to make the 8 a 10 and now the problem is 10 + 5 again. Easy!

But try to tell that to a kid who isn't thrilled with math and watch his eyes glaze over. And, to me, this overwhelmed feeling makes sense because doing this kind of solving is skipping over the "real math" that's happening behind the scenes. We're assuming a bunch of steps. I'm going to do the Algebra for you so you can see how complex this method really is:

Problem: 9 + 6 = x

Sub step: 10 - 9 = y => y = 1

New equation: 9 + y + (6 - y) = x

Sub step #2: 6 - y = z => 6 - 1 = z => z = 5

New equation #2: 9 + 1 + z = x => 10 + 5 = x => 15 = x

I firmly believe that Algebra isn't hard. But it can be overwhelming if you just drop complex equations on someone, like 9 + y + z = x given z = (6 - y) and y = 1

Glen makes some excellent observations over on the original blog post. Short version: It is convenient to regroup into tens for us for some math equations. But being able to do so does not demonstrate that you understand that adding 6 to 9 merely moves our position on the number line six whole numbers, leaving us at 15.

Skimming because numbers make you feel ill? Start reading again here

You and your children can understand math. You can find it enjoyable -- perhaps only in short bursts using it to make Cosplay like my wife. But sometimes the way people try to teach the concepts just doesn't make sense.

Enter MathTacular: Unbelievably Understandable Math

Don't let some complex and confusing instruction get you down. Grab a great homeschool math program that matches your students' needs and the MathTacular DVDs, and go forth finding joy in understanding math!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

P.S. Is your math program not working? Click the link for some information and great tips from other homeschoolers.

P.P.S. Please watch the MathTacular trailer videos up there. It'll take a few minutes but they are ton of fun. Some of my best work, if I do say so myself <smile>.

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