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Teaching Children (12/18/2020)

Q: "How do you teach children advanced mathematics?"

A: This is just a personal opinion; please take it with a grain of salt...

• Cultivate an environment conductive to learning. Have a well-stocked bookshelf (i.e.: a lot of books about a variety of subjects, not just mathematics). "Educational" is not synonymous with "boring".

• Do not lecture, but share openly. Present ideas without force and plainly answer any and all questions that are thrown at you to the best of your ability. If you really don't know, then be honest. Say, "I don't know yet, but let's find out together!"

• As much as possible, focus in on tangible examples before moving on to abstractions. Show how things can be applied. The question "why are we learning this?" only appears when we cannot see the personal relevance of a bit of information.

• Try to make learning as dynamic and engaging as possible, never a regularly scheduled chore that has to be slogged through. Show how mathematical reasoning can be integrated into one's day-to-day life in a way that produces a sense of wonder.

• If they take to some particular way of learning, encourage it, even if it is different from what you expect. Share in their joys, comfort them in their sadness. Emphasize that there are no "failures", only opportunities for growth and deeper understanding.

In short, the most "complicated" subjects can be made fascinating if they are broken down into digestible bits that speak to us in a way that is meaningful. It doesn't matter their age or the topic.

Likewise, we do infinitely more for our children when we foster a passion for self-directed learning, rather than trying to fill their heads with "facts" and their time with "activities". Well-meaning parents sometimes treat their children like property, like an object to be honed, rather than as a human being.

So above all, the most important thing that we can do is show our caring and support as a parent. Here are two ways that we can do this:

• Be involved in your children's lives. Take the time to understand why they are feeling what they are feeling without condemnation. Know who their friends are.

• Live by example in all that you do. Instill a sense of accountability and discernment. Do not try to motivate through punishment or reward. Be firm whenever necessary, but always carefully explain why. When it comes to issues of safety, leave nothing to curiosity.

As general as this advice is, I hope that it is helpful to everyone. If anyone would like more specific resources (on learning math or otherwise), please let me know.

Some music:
Amidst - Phantasy

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