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Developing Math Skills 5/5 – Understanding the Real World

By: tutor Marc L profile picture Marc L., Math Tutor, Dentist, Executive MBA from the University of Ottawa

In previous blogs, we discussed four categories involved in developing math skills which are: 

Understanding concepts where the student becomes aware of individual facts and information presented and where there is also a fundamental understanding of the mathematical idea presented.

Understanding Procedures involve having knowledge of procedures, when and where to use them and having a sense of how to use these procedures with efficiency and efficacy while maintaining an element of flexibility.

Understanding Strategy involves a competency developed by the student to formulate a mathematical problem, know how to represent it and solve it.

Understanding Logic is all about developing the capability of thinking logically about the relationships between concepts, processes, strategy and the situation at hand. 

How do we now put it all together in Understanding the Real World

Math in the Real World

Let’s face it, math is an integral part of the real world; whether you are driving your car at a certain speed, figuring out your gas mileage, calculating your income tax, planting your garden, music, renovating your kitchen, buying groceries, banking and investing, building a shed, using electricity, feeding your dog, cooking, travelling, business, and the list goes on and on.

Since math is all around, why are so many afraid of it? The answer is simple; they understand and accept this math that makes sense to them. The everyday math around you becomes second nature. As you develop your math skills, it starts to make sense to the students and they can then start applying their newly-found understanding and relate it to more complicated problems. They can also start applying their knowledge to new concepts.

If you want to become a good cook, you will learn the basics of learning about ingredients by starting with simple recipes and eventually start cooking entire meals. You get a feel for what works and what doesn’t and you become adept at experimenting on your own. With time and experience, you might feel confident enough to audition for one of the many reality cooking and baking shows on television.

I have friends who have a daughter who is a professional chef. They are always amazed when she visits their home, looks in the fridge and pantry and creates a feast out of very few items she has found. She uses her accumulated knowledge and puts it all together to make an incredible meal fit for a high end restaurant.

Math is no different. In fact, students who have developed a knowledge of concepts, procedures, strategy and logic,  start seeing mathematics as being reasonable and understandable. They know that with proper effort and experience they can learn even more. They also begin to realize that mathematics is not arbitrary and that there is order and sense involved.

In the real world, the same holds true with many learned skills such as playing a musical instrument, learning a new language, playing sports, mountain climbing, SCUBA diving, driving a car or motorcycle, flying a plane, painting or sculpting, writing a story or a book, building a house, fixing a car, obtaining a degree. Do you remember the first time you actually have tried some of these? There would have been fear and trepidation at first but you overcame it and learned the skill because you developed the right attitude regardless of aptitude. I have said it in an earlier blog: “Attitude trumps aptitude at every turn”.

When you develop any new skill, it makes sense to you and much of it becomes second nature. You in effect develop a comfortable relationship with these new skills.

Understanding math is no different than any other skills you have developed over time. With the right attitude, you will succeed.

In future blogs, we will start discovering how much fun math can be!

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