Little kids typically love math. They enjoy counting, and sorting shapes, and playing math games, and learning how to add.
But soon, of course, the math gets harder and becomes a lot less fun. Subtraction isn’t nearly as easy as addition…and then here come the times tables, and long division, and fractions, percents, decimals…ugh!
Math is really just like learning a foreign language or a musical instrument: Beginning is easy and interesting and achieving fluency is deeply satisfying, but in between lies a long stretch of tedious, frustrating grunt work (conjugating verbs…practicing scales…blech!!)
Test preparation forces kids to drill on those basic math skills. My students discover that the SAT and the ACT create their “hard” math questions out of material that isn’t rocket science (it usually isn’t even Algebra II) but that kids, notoriously, simply haven’t practiced enough, especially:
- triangle properties
(Click here and look in the purple box for Five Sets of SAT Review Videos on these basic math topics plus reading and writing tips.)
Several of my math-adverse test-prep students, the ones who introduced themselves to me with I’m a verbal person; math isn’t my thing, are nonetheless getting awfully good at their math…and liking it!
It’s so deeply satisfying and empowering to get a handle on a subject which used to feel intimidating, and I love seeing that look of fresh interest and keen pride and confidence on their faces.
It’s definitely worth pushing kids to put in the time and effort to achieve greater math fluency and understanding, not just for Test Day, but for a lifetime. Learning math trains the brain to reason logically and to problem-solve, and people who are more numerically literate make better life decisions (a great reply to the ‘ol Why do we have to learn this stuff? / I’m never going to use it in real life, complaint).
Most people who stick with their math and continue all the way into calculus are really glad they did. Just like being able to converse fluently in French or effortlessly play Bach on the piano, the fun really begins when a person has put in the effort to master the basics.