Math is hard; let’s go shopping!

There’s a running joke at Web Watch about one’s ability – or inability – to handle math that’s more advanced than the basic multiplication table.

We’ve counted on our fingers in public more often than we care to note, and we are often despised at the blackjack tables — not because we don’t know the rules of the game or make the incorrect strategy decisions, but rather because we slow the game down tremendously while we determine whether we should hit or stay on a 6 of clubs and an 8 of hearts vs a dealer’s up-card of 4.

Yeah, 6+8 shouldn’t be a difficult piece of math to remember, but sometimes things aren’t as easy as they look.

NEW MATH by Tom Lehrer
NEW MATH by Tom Lehrer

Apparently Web Watch is not alone in trying to come to grips with what should be basic 1st grade math.

According to the UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO’s study on math skills, fear of math begins in the first grade.

And those kids who fear their ability to do math can lead those same students to fall behind in their math achievements– as much as six months behind! — compared to kids who more readily comprehend how simple math works.  And it doesn’t matter how good the kids are in school.

Math anxiety is common among high-achieving first- and second-graders, as well as in low-achieving students.  But that math fear had a bigger effect on those high-achieving students on their math performance.   With this type of research information to support it, teachers are trying harder to show that tests and exams should be considered “challenges” rather than as “threats”.

They’re also helping students address their anxiety directly before those tests, to help lessen the possibility that the math anxiety would negatively affect the test grade.  Writing or talking about the anxiety first helps provide an increase in later math performance.

When it comes down to it, students shouldn’t fear math as much as they do.  Especially in grade school, that math should be used to build a foundation that those same students will use later in life.

Such as 6+8.

Maybe schools should start teaching blackjack in first grade.  It covers math, rules, etiquette, social skills, hand-eye coordination — what first grader shouldn’t be learning these things?