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Math = Fun. Kids Should Know That

By Madeline Holler |

science-in-schools-need-more-engineers-weekThere’s a lot of talk about how U.S. schools neglect science and math in the curriculum. So it should be no surprise that National Engineers Week went mostly unnoticed as well.

Of course, the week launched on Valentine’s Day and nothing says “Be Mine” like an algorithm and robotics talk. But still. Their goals are noble if not romantic. The group behind the week, Lockheed Martin, just wants to get more science, technology, engineering and math into the schools.

The question is, how do we get more kids interested and educated in technology and math? More classes? More rigor?

The problem with just upping standards is there’s nothing to attach these things to. I think there’s a missing connection between the sciences and careers — actually employment — especially in schools where every other parent isn’t a PhD or even a mid-level professional of some kind. So programs like Lockheed Martin’s, which bring scientists and engineers in the classroom doing there thing could get some kids’ attention. (As does following this guy on Twitter — he tweets in two languages).

But also, in adding to the school science and math curriculum, I hope schools won’t just up the standards, add more homework, make it even more abstract, which is the direction so many schools seem to go. Pretty soon, we’ll expect Kindergartners to do algebra and then wonder why they can’t. Instead, science and math should be about discovery and experimentation and real-world applications of the methods and means. You know, fun?

For that, we’ll need thoughtful curriculum, teacher training and a connection between those working in the sciences and the people they hope will someday replace them. We need those people to show us why math isn’t boring or a test for memory skills, rather, it’s something really cool and not really so incomprehensible (like this guy did recently in the NY Times). I’d love for science to compete with other areas of excitement for young children’s attention.

Ray Johnson, Lockheed Martin chief technology officer puts it this way:  “I’m going to maybe draw on an analogy to sports. There’s a thrill — we talk about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat — and everybody understands the thrill that comes with achieving a goal. That same kind of thrill, that same kind of exhilaration, can come from engineers and scientists solving difficult problems.”

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About Madeline Holler

madeline-holler

Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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4 thoughts on “Math = Fun. Kids Should Know That

  1. Laure68 says:

    “Of course, the week launched on Valentine’s Day and nothing says “Be Mine” like an algorithm and robotics talk. ”

    I know this was meant to be sarcastic, but this year for Valentine’s Day my husband gave me a subscription to a science journal and it was my favorite V-day present ever!

    I know you did not mean it to be like that, but comments like this (which I hear people say often, jokes about how so not-fun math is) makes people really start believing that math is a big drag. I think we need to get it out of our heads as a society that math and science are not fun.

  2. Oh, I’m sorry, Laura68. I wasn’t implying it’s not fun (the point of the post!), I just meant I didn’t really associate math with romance, though come to think of it You+Me=True Love Always. My bad! (For the record, I come from engineers and married an engineer-y person and love math and science myself.)

  3. Laure68 says:

    I totally know you didn’t mean it, and I have to stop myself from making nerd jokes sometimes. (And I am an engineer!) This was more a comment on our society and how these kinds of ideas can influence kids.

  4. Patty O'Brien Novak says:

    Comments
    Kudos to you Madeline for writing about how National Engineer’s Week goes largely unnoticed! Nice to hear from someone who is not an engineer. As for the coincidence with Valentine’s Day, nothing says “Be Mine” like “Engineers had a part in all these lovely chocolates and flowers and cards!” As for making engineering fun for kids – tell them engineers helped make those cool, green glasses they’re wearing in the photo above. Name something a child is interested in and 99% of the time, an engineer had a part in it!

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