Children are born with a thirst for knowledge and curiosity. More than a mental process, curiosity is an inborn ability that starts manifesting in the early days of a child’s life. Babies are curious about their parents, it’s almost like they come from a different planet and watch their parents closely in order to learn the Earthlings’ manners. They discover the world through this first interaction.
Curiosity is deeply linked with learning from infancy, therefore children’s curiosity is an important skill for self-development and critical thinking. Curiosity is also what enables children to associate experiences and positive or negative outcomes. A very familiar example is: baby changes facial expression based on what the parent conveys. Sadness with frowning, happiness with smiles. Consequently, babies learn through associative processes from early infancy.
Curiosity as a learning drive
On closer examination, children and students excel at subjects they are curious about. The learning process is driven by positive stimuli and the reward is the added knowledge. The most healthy learning behavior a child can manifest is seeing the accumulated knowledge as the ultimate reward. Thus, a child that is curious about mathematics has an easier time learning it, but he might not excel at music. This applies to children of all ages and predispositions. Even Albert Einstein was driven towards study due to associative learning.
What is associative learning?
Jakob Einstein was an engineer and Albert Einstein’s uncle. The physicist genius that we learn about was actually a lazy learner, ignoring the importance of foreign languages and humane science while he was more curious about maths and physics. While he excelled at some parts of mathematics such as geometry, he wasn’t really fond of algebra. However, his uncle, Jakob, managed to activate his interest in algebra by associating algebra concepts with a detective story: “It’s a merry science,” he explained. When the animal that we are hunting cannot be caught, we call it X temporarily and continue to hunt until it is bagged.”
Transforming the learning experience into a searching game will offer the child the three most important stages in successful studying:
- Curiosity Nurturing an innate ability to explore unknown factors in a positive way. This also evolves into critical thinking and analytical skills.
- Stimulation Receiving the appropriate dopamine charge in order to feel motivated and follow a purpose. It keeps the child’s mind busy in a positive way.
- Reward The satisfaction of a fulfilled purpose creates a positive association with the learning experience and the desire to re-do it in order to reach another reward.
Associative learning is a basic psychological principle. It refers to the link between ideas and experience. Our brains function based on interconnected information, we cannot acknowledge something independently of other previously acquired knowledge. Our minds are a matrix of infinite associations.
The only trick is to encourage positive associations in our minds, especially in the learning process.
In regards to mathematics, many children develop a phobia because of stressful factors, and science is often associated with struggle and failure. This happens because the child’s brain links mathematics with either personal anger or parents’ anger, discouragement, or being constantly wrong. In order to help the child perceive mathematics as something positive, teachers and parents ought to encourage the association between studying it with something pleasant and rewarding.
However, rewarding can also be positive and negative and while quick rewards such as toys, sweets, or money can solve the problem temporarily, they will cause even worse outcomes. Positive rewarding should contribute to the long-term development of the child: compliments on the progress of exercises can foster self-confidence, or using mathematics principles in order to solve real-life problems thus demonstrating the practicality of learning. Letting your child help out with shopping, comparing prices, analyzing price and quality, will develop critical thinking.
Besides, learning through association also enables your memory to remember things easier. Associative learning can also be used in day-to-day life in order to remember tasks and not keep a stressful calendar.
Useful examples of associative learning
First identify an activity that relaxes your child or one that makes him or her happy such as drawing or singing, solving puzzles or riddles. If your children really like drawing, they can actually draw the fractions. Below, you will find an example for each situation:
Draw the right number of cubes with your favorite color in order to indicate the following fractions: 3/4, 2/9, 1/5, 6/8, 2/4.
- Solving puzzle
Create a Math Crossword puzzle or get one from the Internet. There are dozens of examples online, ready-to-print.
Math riddles can vary from plain simple to very difficult depending on your child’s grade level. An example of an easy math riddle is: “A fox and her three cubs, a bear, and an eagle went fishing. Each of them caught one fish. How many fish did they catch in total?” or something more complicated would be: “If you multiply this number by any other number, the answer will always be the same. What number is this?”
Don’t forget to compliment or encourage your child for each correct answer. Try to keep a calm and positive attitude because children usually associate the learning experience with their parents’ reactions to grades or school events. When it comes to wrong answers, you should always have the patience to guide your child into trying again.
At the Online Math Center, we offer students personalized learning experiences and plan our lessons based on the needs and abilities of each child. You can find more information about our programs by contacting us right away and we will run you through our educational curriculum.