The answer is yes. As children, a lot of us often wondered how much value there is in a lot of what we learn about in school. We would ask when we’re going to use this stuff in life or how it’s going to prepare us for the working world. I know I thought many times to myself, “Now, when is this or this ever going to help me in real life?” I think a lot of us, in particular, tend to wonder about this with different kinds of mathematics. But when you really stop to think about how often the typical person uses math on a daily basis, it’s seemingly often. Grocery shopping, filling our tank, planning for monthly expenses, and dividing our income among bills are just some of the ways we use math from moment to moment, even when we aren’t thinking about it.
We have turned into a society that gives us cell phones with complex calculators built into them. Stores tell us the final cost of a product after-sales. Bank statements are automated, and I can’t say I know many people who still manually balance their checkbooks.
Math is the only universal language. Math isn’t just numbers. Math is constantly weaving itself into our day. When you drive to work, you use spatial skills. When you cook or bake, you use measurements. If you garden, you may need to dig, plant seeds into holes, and create rows from scratch. You are constantly using math even if it doesn’t seem like it.
Should we be forcing students to take higher-level math?
Kids are like sponges. They’re constantly absorbing information that is available to them. As a math teacher, I find that students are able to conceptualize new ideas faster than their parents can. Many of my math students are able to mentally calculate problems just as fast and often faster than I can. Keep in mind that my students range from 2 years old to 12 years old.
Kids are able to learn faster than adults because their brain is still developing. The prefrontal cortex or memory center is more developed in adults than kids, which makes it harder for adults to learn something new than it does a child. Kids are constantly building more neural connections. When we introduce new ideas, new pathways are being formed. With practice and repetition, these pathways become broader and well-traveled. Ideally, we want our children to be exposed to things at an early age because they will be more likely to retain it.
Math is an essential part of learning for children at an early age. When you introduce math to your child before Kindergarten, you are not only setting them up for success. You are allowing them the chance to foster the foundational skills of math sooner. This will allow them to consistently progress faster and continuously stay in advanced math classes.
I teach a student at Genie Academy who is currently practicing third-grade math. Sevina is in the first grade. During class, she flies through her work and is so incredibly eager to learn about new topics. She quickly retains everything I teach her and is able to apply extremely advanced concepts for her age.
When I wonder how this student is exceptionally good at math, I remember that she enrolled at Genie Academy at only three and a half years old. Sevina started young and continues to repeat old skills as she widens her neural pathways with old ones. This particular student always tells me how she finished a week's worth of homework in one night, and she is always asking for more, more, more.
Though anecdotal evidence, Sevina proved to me that there is no limit to the level of math that can be taught to children. They just keep retaining everything!
I do feel that young students need to be exposed to advanced math at a young age. Without it, your student may be average or struggle, but an early introduction to mathematics can only pave a road to success for your child.
-The Genie Academy Team1