Ramesh Kumar is an engineer by training and currently work as a digital marketer, but his most important role is as a father to two young girls. In his spare time, he writes the blog The Papa Post where he muses on fatherhood, technology and our favorite topic, math fun! Read his five thoughts about math.
1. What do you love about math?
Math makes you cool and smart. It’s highly creative, full of fun, logical, and based on reasoning. Many people consider math as nothing more than rote, tedious number crunching, plugging numbers into a formula that they cannot memorize, but it can be beautiful once you understand it. The beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
2. How did you feel about math as a child and what shaped that opinion?
My dad was good at math and his support and influence made math easy for me. His mantra of patience and perseverance helped me understand math, love math and then get good at math. He showed us everyday examples of how math is used in every walk of life. That gave me a better perspective of math and why it is so important to learn it. Not only did I learn that math makes you smarter, but also it is the passport to good jobs and success in life.
My dad did not go to college but he had his own ways of solving math problems, which rarely matched the way my teacher taught us and I found my dad’s way logical, sometimes amusing and weird. I am thankful to my parents for building that supporting environment and investing in my education right from a very early age.
3. What is your favorite math memory?
This might not be my favorite, but it’s an important, memorable one. When I was in grade 4, I taught my friend the concept of least common multiple (LCM) just a day before the final exam. Fortunately we got a question on LCM on the exam. However, that was the only problem he solved on the whole exam, which made me sad. I started questioning his parental support in his education.
It’s not that this boy hated math or was dumb. It’s just that family issues at that young age prevented him from getting the support he needed to excel. I know he was as smart as anyone else and could have done exceedingly well with some encouragement.
What advice do you have for parents who want to create a math-friendly environment?
Children need our support and encouragement to reach their potential. Math is no different from, let’s say, baseball or ballet dance. It takes hard work, support and encouragement from parents to succeed in baseball, ballet and math.
As parents we pass on our biases knowingly or unknowingly to our children. It would be fair to say that if parents are good in math, the children would probably do well in math. Similarly, if parents are good in baseball the children would likely do well in sports. No matter which area we are talking about – baseball, ballet or math – children need support, encouragement and hard work in all of the above activities. We, as parents, need to decide how best to help the children.
The human DNA sequencing has been completed and scientists have not discovered any gene related to math skills. Math is a skill, just like baseball and ballet that is learned through practice and encouragement. Parents need to bring math into everyday life, especially for young children and make it look cool and easy.
4. How do we inspire kids of all cultures and backgrounds to embrace math?
Remember Baljeet from the Disney show Phineas and Ferb? He’s considered a nerd, unsocial, and the scariest thing for him is to get an F in math. We have football players, baseball players, movie stars, politicians, singers and dancers as famous role models in the media but no science or math stars – and that is not a coincidence. Shouldn’t we be treating kids who win robotics or math competitions the same way as our high school football team? We need change in attitude.
We need to involve kids in fun projects and break the stereotype that is out there. Math is not a Kool-Aid that kids can gulp in minutes and become good at math. It takes hard work to excel in anything. With games, activities, science & math museum trips, and our encouragement we can make math fun and cool.