Monday, 16 April 2012

Right angles and left angles

New blog, new ideas? Maybe not, but hopefully some new things to think about when it comes to our kids' learning. We all want the best for our children - we want them to achieve more than we did and go further than we have. We want them to be happy first of all, but we also want them to do well in school and achieve academic success of some kind. We want them to achieve their own potential, but for many of us, we're not sure how to go about helping them. There exists a danger in society that we become complacent and too often we blame the schools and the individual teachers when our child is seen to be "failing" at something. But the truth is that as parents we are the primary teachers of our children and it is our job to do our best to understand what they are doing in school and to help them with their learning.

Which brings me to the discussion I was having with my 7 year old today about shapes. After discussing squares and rectangles I introduced the idea of right angles. I'm not entirely convinced, as she told me, that they have never learnt about right angles in school, but I accepted that this may be the case and decided to tackle it myself, it being one of the less complex concepts I have to deal with when it comes to her learning. (Often I too am guilty of saying "We'll leave that to your teachers" when it comes to teaching new ideas and embarking on fresh topics; surely, I think, this is best dealt with in the confines of the classroom, where all the children are learning together, and I trust that the education system has it right on the time to introduce new ideas to my children. I know deep down that this is not the case; I know my children and their capability for learning better than anyone but like all of us at times I take the easy option and brush aside difficult questions. But I digress). The right angles seemed to be sinking in. She pointed to the corner of the room and we looked at the corners of the kitchen table and even discussed right angled triangles. But then, when asked how many right angles the square on the picture in front of her had, she changed her initial, correct answer of 4, to 2. I started to point out that no, it did actually have 4 when she looked at me with that grin of hers, and said, "No, Mammy, it has 2 right angles on this side, and 2 left angles on that side. Look!"

As parents we are all teachers. More than that, we are all brilliant teachers, and our kids listen to us, and watch us, even when they are doing their best to ignore us. Doing maths at home with children often terrifies parents, especially when the parents struggled themselves with maths at school. (DON'T ADMIT TO THIS. Never tell your child that you can't do maths. It gives them permission to be useless at maths too, and to stop trying when they meet an obstacle.) Have a go this week; count the wheels on bikes and cars with your 2 year old; ask your 5 year old to share out a bag of sweets with a sibling (good luck!), talk about right angles with your 7 year old, get your 10 year old to work out the best money-off deal in the supermarket, persuade your 15 year old to explain to you what the statistics in that newspaper article really mean.

My 7 year old knew full well that there was no such thing as left angles, but having a laugh is a vital part of learning, and she was thrilled when I got the joke. If we can make maths fun every day, surely we're onto a winner.

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