Can Anyone Learn Math?

What makes learning fun is different for different people.

What will make math fun for

Everyone can learn to see the beauty of mathematics. Books by Theoni Pappas, Keith Devlin, and others have brought the beauty of mathematics into public view. To teach our children, we need to do more than expose our children to the elegance of mathematics. We need to help each of them experience the pleasure of solving problems and thinking mathematically.

With so many unique traits and learning styles, how do we individualize our teaching methods for each child? Every student benefits from being exposed to a variety of approaches; still, teachers can choose to emphasize those methods most meaningful to a particular child.

Personality Types

One of the best known personality assessment is that of Meyers Briggs. Simplifying the sixteen classifications, let’s consider the four broadest ones:
Sensing-Judging (Guardian),
Sensing-Perceiving (Artisan),
Intuitive-Thinking (Rational), and
Intuitive- Feeling (Idealist)

Here’s how a teacher might tailor a math lesson to each of these four temperaments.

Sensing-Perceiving

Even an artisan, or bubbly person who likes lots of fun, fun, fun, can be motivated to learn mathematics! The entertaining adventurer can be drawn in by colorful manipulatives, by placing problems in interesting contexts, and by using unit studies around their personal interests. For my comical, yet clever and observant young son, we study critter after critter. Beginning with bugs, we studied solitary creatures and social creatures in depth. For several we developed habitats for their survival. The students recorded extensive observations and carried out serious experiments. We created graphs of food intake and habitat preferences. This helped my active little guy see math in motion with these miniature wonders.

Sensing-Judging

A fact-oriented, organized decision maker, sometimes called a guardian, will often dutifully work through written problems. It might appear easy enough to provide lots of worksheets, but even the most persistent and patient problem solver will grow weary of this. To capture their creativity, a wide selection of problem types should be presented to this direct thinker. They can also be motivated with challenges, contests, and competitions. Wanting to be prepared, they will patiently practice problem after problem. These problems should be thoughtfully selected. This careful student will benefit from seeing different approaches to problems and sharing highlights of various solution techniques.

Intutive-Thinking

The rational, or commanding temperamental creative, can certainly build a solid conceptual understanding of mathematical topics. With their keen sense of imagination, they often motivate themselves. These inventive children will often pose their own questions and explore ideas related to the topic at hand. Even when plowing through greatest common factor and least common multiple problems using prime factorization, my NT son amused himself by thinking about what was the smallest GCF possible. Working through this together, we found that 1 is the smallest GCF possible. We then observed that this occurs only when two numbers are relatively prime. Still pondering this the following day, my son challenged me with the idea that 0 was actually the answer. Before discounting his discovery, we had to agree that for GCF to make sense the numbers being compared had to be different from each other. (Except in theory, it was meaningless for him to consider that the GCF of 0 and 0 is 0.)

Intutive-Feeling

The idealist, peace-loving youngster, can also enjoy mathematics. Using group or paired problem solving techniques, a sensitive person will enjoy working with others to discuss and solve problems. Different approaches to problems can be emphasized and solutions even acted out. Theoretical, idealists will enjoy finding connections and relationships among topics. There are lots of connections in mathematics. Consider the factoring concept again. The geometric representation of factoring can be seen in the dimensions of rectangles with the same area. On graph paper, draw all the rectangles, of whole number dimensions, which have an area of 60. [1×60, 2×30, 3×20, 4×15, 5×12, 6×10, 10×6, 12×5, 15×4, 20×3, 30×2, 60×1]. These dimensions are exactly the factors of 60. When you begin to look for them, you will find many intriguing relationships between geometry, algebra, and number theory.

Learning Styles

In addition to working with your child’s personality, it’s helpful to identify his or her learning style. (And your own as well!) Is your child predominantly a kinesthetic, an auditory, or a visual learner?

The most effective teachers model approaches suitable to all three learning styles. They speak. They write. They do. And they train their students to do the same.

Learning to think mathematically is a process. Begin with these steps. As you individualize the learning experience, continue to expose children to new problems and alternate approaches. With persistence, all students can succeed and learn to enjoy mathematics!

This is math-mom.com, the website built on our belief that learning is naturally fun. With the right expectation and approach, anyone can enjoy learning. But since each of us is unique, we each must find our own best way to learn. We know that we have found our way when learning is fun.

Here you will find books, products, and ideas that our family has used to make learning fun for each one of us. We hope that it encourages you to find your own way to have the fun of learning.