Problem-solving is one of the fundamental goals of learning math. However, memorizing formulae and doing math is not the same as thinking mathematically, and it often misses the mark when it comes to more elaborate and even real-life problem-solving.
So, what’s the difference between doing math and thinking mathematically? And how can we teach children to think in a way that helps them apply math both in their education and real life? That’s what we’re going to uncover in this article.
Doing math vs. thinking mathematically
Oftentimes in traditional schooling, children learn math as an isolated, abstract subject. Because of the way traditional schooling is set up, math teachers don’t always have the opportunity to focus on every student and show them in ways that make sense to them how math can be used in real life. As such, many students simply memorize formulae, do their homework as best as they can, and hope they pass the class and never have to solve certain problems again.
With this approach, children simply “do the math” but don’t practice mathematical thinking to its fullest extent. That’s where individual tutoring comes in to consolidate what has been taught in school and encourage mathematical thinking for real-world use cases.
The benefits of mathematical thinking
Now that the difference between doing math and thinking mathematically is clear, you may be wondering, why would a child need to develop mathematical thinking beyond the ability to do simple calculus?
For starters, there’s a strong link between mathematical thinking and logical reasoning. Logical reasoning is an important aptitude for decision-making, life and career management, and more. Mathematical thinking helps people develop their logical reasoning abilities, enabling them to accurately analyze real-life situations, predict possible outcomes, and make informed decisions based on that.
Furthermore, mathematical thinking supports science, technology, and economic development, among other things. Any career path that involves even the smallest amount of scientific, technological, or economic understanding also involves mathematical thinking.
Additionally, mathematical thinking helps improve math skills and makes learning math a bit easier. When math skills are lacking, mathematical thinking combined with tutoring and supervised practice will hone those skills. Likewise, if mathematical thinking is the weaker aspect, a personalized math tutoring program will help develop it, ultimately leading to better results and improved skills.
Developing mathematical thinking with tutoring
Having the support of a math tutor is the key to effectively developing mathematical thinking. The tutor will know exactly what type of activities and exercises are needed to supplement existing abilities and enrich the math learning experience, too.
For example, a tutor can help students develop their mathematical thinking capabilities by using exercises that encourage them to:
- Explore and identify mathematical structures;
- Think strategically to solve certain problems;
- Visualize results before solving problems;
- Understand underlying math concepts via alternative representation;
- Build a systematic approach to problem-solving;
- Hone their reasoning, justifying, and convincing skills.
Tutors can also design these exercises in more engaging and interactive ways to make students more curious, resilient, and collaborative. Because that’s when they are more willing and prepared to take in new information and process it in a way that sticks.
Developing mathematical thinking is essential in today’s fast-paced society when everyone has to be more agile than ever before. Mathematical thinking enhances agility, making it much easier to come to the right decision at the right time.
It’s also vital for almost any profession available. Whether your child wants to be a cook, musician, teacher, scientist, or perform in the digital or technology field, there’s a level of math involved with it.
Here at OMC, we understand the importance of preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s world. That’s why we design our tutoring programs and curriculum in ways that serve their needs, passions, and future careers. And we do it in ways that make the learning experience engaging, memorable, and even fun.