I'm going to ask a seemingly incorrect question. Why must we all like math? Because that's the message these days. It's as if there is something wrong with us (and this is particularly true for women), or there was something wrong with our education if we don't like math. Why can't math be just one of those things that some people like and some people don't? We seem to be allowed this option with just about everything else, but say you don't like math and people start wringing their hands and muttering about the state of education.
So, because I'm a bit of a reactionary, I'm just going to say it. I don't like math. And I'm not overly fond of numbers in general. They just don't do a whole lot for me. And you know what? Just because I don't like math doesn't mean that other can't enjoy it. Even love it. It's fine by me that they see great beauty in numbers. Just because I don't like something does not mean it isn't valuable or worth liking, it just means I don't like it. I like to read. A lot. Great big books that last 1000 pages or more. But I know that other people would rather clean a bathroom with a toothbrush than read a 1000 page book. That's OK, too.
And before anyone starts pointing fingers and accusing me of a 'math phobia', I want to be clear about what I'm saying. I can do math. I just don't like to do it. I took advanced honors level math classes in high school and still maintained an A average. I didn't take any classes in college because I didn't have to. I find no joy in doing mathematics and consequently I have to force myself to concentrate on it. As far as I'm concerned, the calculator is one of the great inventions of our time.
I knew all this about myself, yet didn't want to prejudice my children about math. What if one of them loved it? I wanted to start them out on the right foot. And so began my great experiment, though I didn't know it was at the time. I was determined to raise children who liked... maybe even loved... math. I bought manipulatives; curriculum which wasn't a bunch of workbook pages, but was touted as the 'natural' way to learn math; we played math games (a lot); we read about mathematicians and all the cool things they do; we read math picture books; and I never said a negative word about math or numbers and pretended that it was the most exciting thing ever. I even tried to go through the book, Calculus for the Young Child, because of all I read about how even real mathematicians sometimes didn't care for arithmetic, but that to get to the true beauty of numbers you had to be able to move into the more theoretical realms.
The purpose of this experiment was to see if presented in the 'right' way, could anyone learn to love math. My conclusion is that while all of this can certainly help them not to hate it, if your bent is not toward numbers, your bent won't be changed by the attitudes and curriculum which surround you. I realize that's positively blasphemous these days, but it's what I think. Of my oldest, the main recipients of all of this forward-thinking math instruction, one tolerates math and does it as needed. The other? Well, lets just say that the word 'tolerates' would be a bit of an overstatement. They are both word people. J. and I are both word people. It's what we love. It's not surprising that our children tend toward words.
Interestingly, those children who were not the recipients of my over-the-top crusade for math, and have instead worked steadily through math texts which are pages and pages of learning math facts among other things, don't mind math at all, and a couple of them actually like it. It is also interesting that with these children, I stopped pretending to enjoy something I did not. I decided to be truthful about what I enjoy and what I don't enjoy, but also gave them permission to like something I did not. Honesty works. Go figure.
So for those of you who love math... that's great. I'm really glad that there are so many different types of people in the world and it is really necessary that some people like math. I'm just not one of them. Please, don't leave me a bunch of comments trying to convince me otherwise.
I'll leave you with one last bit of irony. As a homeschooling mother, I have done more math in the last few years than in the previous ten, and.... as a result of checking endless pages of math, my math facts are stronger now than they ever have been.