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Some of us love it, some of us hate it and most of us have a love- hate relationship with it. Of course, I’m talking about the subject of mathematics. Sri Lankan schools often give heavy weight to mathematics so much so that some children believe they are stupid if they do not know maths. Thus, this week’s FYI will be about mathematics, the myths debunked.

MYTH: Maths is hard
FACT: Maths can be hard, if you don’t practise it enough and if you don’t know the basics. Imagine taking up rugby and not knowing how to throw and catch a ball properly before being thrown into a match.

MYTH: Some people are just good at maths
FACT: Research has shown that even young babies understand basic maths concepts such as counting, grouping and matching. Some people are good at maths because they spend more time using maths, in their jobs or in their hobbies. Point out how maths is used in your child’s interests.

MYTH: Calculators can do all the maths for me
FACT: It is true that we have computers and calculators that can carry out calculations for us, but these devices can only give us results based on what we put in.  If your child doesn’t rely on computers and calculators, they won’t know if the answer is correct. Estimating exercises are a good way to help your child use calculators with confidence.

MYTH: You don’t need to know the basics
FACT: Maths is like a tall building. It needs strong foundations. If your child doesn’t know the maths basics, then as maths gets harder through the years, your child will end up falling more and more behind. Go back to basics. Make sure your child can add, subtract, multiply and divide before focusing on algebra.

MYTH: There is only one right answer
FACT: Arts subjects are seen as being more creative because there is no single correct answer. In maths, there are often several ways of getting to the correct answer. For example two ways to work out the area of a triangle are to use a formula or to divide the triangle up and make it into a rectangle and then work out the area of that new shape. Try asking your child if they know “another” way to work out the answer to one of their homework questions.

MYTH:  Maths is a textbook/worksheet subject
FACT: Maths is a practical subject. Even basics such as counting and timetables are based on physical and real life concepts. Help your child learn to talk about maths by finding out how maths is used in history, art, geography and business.

MYTH:  You can’t revise for maths tests
FACT: Children know that 1 + 1 = 2 because they hear it so often and they use that number fact several times a day. In the same way, the best way to revise for a maths test is to use those maths facts as much as possible.  Rebecca Zook shows how she got a seventh grader from “I don’t get it” to getting 100 percents by practising in different ways.

MYTH: You’ll never use this stuff again
FACT: There are hundreds of jobs and careers that use maths on a daily basis, there are some seriously cool careers that need maths but even if your child doesn’t go on to choose one of those careers, wouldn’t you rather say they were able to handle their own finances without getting ripped off (compound interest is a high school topic)

MYTH:  Girls aren’t as good at maths as boys
FACT: In fact, in many countries, including the UK, maths achievement up to the age of 16 is higher in girls. As well as putting girls off taking maths and science courses for further studies, this myth also makes boys feel as though they “should” be good at maths. Make sure that you’re not using gender bias when talking to your child about maths.