Do you think math is fun?

Michigan State University Extension is helping youth evaluate the value of math.

We use math everywhere, even while baking.
We use math everywhere, even while baking.

The Michigan State University Extension science team is dedicated to increasing science literacy across Michigan, providing programing to increase Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) awareness and involvement. One component of STEM awareness is evaluating how you think about math.

Do you think math is fun? Based on a survey from Change the Equation that gauged the attitude of Americans toward math, 29 percent of Americans reported they were not good in math. In the same survey, however, 95 percent of Americans reported it is important to be good in math.

You can help youth evaluate the impact of math on our lives by exploring the ways we use math each day. Ask youth to brainstorm how they have used math in the past day. Let youth brainstorm by themselves for a little bit, then try to stimulate their mind with ideas. Have them recall everything they did for a full 24 hours, including when they were sleeping.

You might discover that you need to discuss the different aspects of math. Mathematics is the study of numbers, structures, space and change as well as the application of each. Math is more than adding and subtracting; math is spatial relationships, measuring and probability.

 Think about all the ways you use math in a task like driving:

  • How long will it take to get there?
  • How much gas will it take?
  • How do I stay between the lines?
  • How much space should I have between my car and the car in front of me?
  • How long will it take to stop safely?

Think about all the ways you use math while eating:

  • How much food should I make?
  • Will the food I’m cooking fit in the pan?
  • What size container should I put the leftovers in?
  • How hot should I cook things?

Math is everywhere, from the clothes we wear to the games and sports we play, to sleeping and arranging furniture.

After youth have completed their list, ask them to share. Go around the room asking each person to share one item at a time until all their items are listed. Remember, the question was, “Do youth think math is fun?”

Next, ask youth to work as pairs or a small group and record each math item and mark it as fun or not fun and, most importantly, why. Many people think math is not fun because that is what they have heard in movies and TV. After each group has finished, ask them to take turns sharing how they rated each item and why.

Finally, ask youth, “Do you think math is fun? Why or why not?” This the most important part of any scientific investigation, the conclusion. When youth tell you or each other that math is or is not fun, allow lots of time for them to explain why or why not. You helped them investigate how they use math every day and gave them time to think about whether each was fun. Now it is time for them to make their own conclusion based on the information collected. This is science in action.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the MSU Extension Science and Engineering webpage. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. US-23 or visit our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page.

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