Why do kids in school dread math?

For the discussion of math. Duh.

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Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Mega85 » Thu Jun 01, 2017 7:40 pm UTC

For most kids in school math is their most dreaded subject. Why is this? Is there something about our brains that makes math dreadful?

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Deva » Thu Jun 01, 2017 8:00 pm UTC

Possibilities:
1. Fails to understand something. Requires that for later math. Struggles then too. Repeat. Becomes frustrating.
2. Seems irrelevant. How often is knowing the equation of an ellipse useful?
3. Feels like pure memorization. Performs individual steps without understanding why. Do not forget formulas either.
4. Taste. Simply dislikes it.
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby heuristically_alone » Thu Jun 01, 2017 8:06 pm UTC

In my family all my older siblings and dad had math as their favirite subject so I was just conditioned when first wntering school to see it in the easy logical way it is. But as I grew older it seemed most everyone else was conditioned to hate math, conditioned to think otwas hard and useless.
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby freezeblade » Thu Jun 01, 2017 10:56 pm UTC

I may not have been the "typical" student, but math wasn't dreaded as much as P.E. or English Class. But then again, I wasn't a typical student.
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby measure » Thu Jun 01, 2017 11:20 pm UTC

I wouldn't say I hated math (certainly not as much as, say, creative writing), but it did seem like a lot of work. I didn't find it particularly difficult work, but there was just so much of it (I realize that for much of esp. early arithmetic rote memorization can be a very helpful learning technique, and I have no doubt that it was helpful for me in the long run, but it wasn't very much fun at the time).

Then, when I started high school (about the time I was starting Algebra), I joined a math/science co-op club (I was homeschooled through the end of high school) that participated in monthly competitions as well as weekly meetings to go over previous competition problems and discuss various methods for approaching real-world problems. By the time I started college (Mechanical Engineering major), I loved math, and my math classes were some of the easiest and most fun for me.

I think the tangible application provided by the competitions was helpful to hold my interest, and I was also surrounded by peers who were enthusiastic about the subject. Being homeschooled, I wasn't in a good position to observe "typical students", and I certainly wasn't in a typical school environment myself, so I don't think I can speak for general reasons why students might dislike math, but my experience at least supports the idea that conditioning might play a significant role.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Jun 01, 2017 11:28 pm UTC

Especially at elementary grades there's a lot of teachers who aren't too keen on math themselves, and the students pick up on it.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Jun 02, 2017 3:09 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Especially at elementary grades there's a lot of teachers who aren't too keen on math themselves, and the students pick up on it.

There is also more emphasis on getting the correct answers in early grades than in understanding the concepts. The overwhelming majority of math that I learned before high school wasn't explained at all, but simply presented as a list of rules. Even prealgebra was described this way, and I had to figure out on my own why these techniques actually worked. But certainly, algorithms like long division just seemed like magic to me, and that is definitely not a good way to view math.

By the time they get to high school, most kids think that math consists of repeatedly applying formal rules in a predetermined order, which of course is going to make it seem awful. And since they don't really understand what they're doing or why they're doing it, math remains hard, as it consists of memorizing new and increasingly more complicated sets of rules to be applied in the same rigorous fashion. Then, if any of this group finally get to integral calculus, they may simply give up, since they never learned the creative processes required to find solutions on your own.

Obviously not all kids have these issues, and plenty of them do take calculus and do enjoy math and so on. But it is a minority, and until recently was pretty stigmatized, so not many people would want to get into math even if they did like it.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Xanthir » Fri Jun 02, 2017 7:42 pm UTC

Math is a foreign language; you literally first learn math by co-opting the language centers of your brain. (Later, as you become more comfortable with it, you start drawing from other parts of your mind like your pattern-recognizer, which makes it flow faster and more intuitively.) Foreign languages are always hard to learn, and often relatively unpopular in school; a foreign language that doesn't even give you the ability to enjoy new pop culture is just begging to be hated.

(Seriously, just look at the similarities in didactics between arithmetic and foreign language - lots of repetition and memorization until it drills deeper into your mind, and a lot of pain until you become "fluent" in a concept.)
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat Jun 03, 2017 12:22 am UTC

In that case, students seem to be taught the Chinese Room method of "understanding" math.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby monkey3 » Sun Jun 04, 2017 12:05 pm UTC

Nothing interesting when you start doing it , not sure what you achieve with all these , to understand that you have to go a long way with it , in the meanwhile it remains a dull subject

Unlike physics , chemistry , english . most of the people don't have much clue what the math is going to achieve towards the end :mrgreen:

that would be like asking what are all the things i could do with a whole number ?
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Flumble » Sun Jun 04, 2017 1:18 pm UTC

monkey3 wrote:Unlike physics , chemistry , english . most of the people don't have much clue what the math is going to achieve towards the end :mrgreen:

Is the "unlike" sarcastic? I have never seen an end goal in languages nor history. :roll: And what will chemistry get you? Sitting in a lab adding stuff A to plates 1-10, prodding in some measurement device and entering the results in a spreadsheet?

Kids should know that math will land you loadsamonee. (Just like programming, if that's ever a serious course in primary/secondary school.) And together with physics it lets you see the Matrix. Every problem you encounter in life will be deconstructible and analogous to mathematical concepts.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby monkey3 » Sun Jun 04, 2017 1:31 pm UTC

IMHO

I don't know how to explain the stuff inside my mind properly , my first language is not English

in math

x is a quantity , but a quantity of what ? most of the time its about something of an unknown thing , that makes that subject very dull


in

Physics and chemistry

Image

in electronics

x is a quantity
x is binary
x is a point mass
x is digital logic
x is electrons

so its a bit more interesting

the point is when do we start solving x for something interesting ? :mrgreen:



Kids should be taught to solve equations like these

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:mrgreen:
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Jun 05, 2017 11:36 pm UTC

monkey3 wrote:Kids should be taught to solve equations like these


Nah.

But if I give a highschooler a $5000 budget, an apartment floorplan and an IKEA catalogue, it shouldn't be unreasonable for them to be able to figure out what they can furnish it with and what some plausible layouts might look like. Or if they're given this graph, they should be able to figure out what's wrong with it. Or why a credit card insurance that adds $0.80 per $100 per month on the balance you're carrying on your credit card is a really, really, terrible deal.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby monkey3 » Tue Jun 06, 2017 12:51 pm UTC

i was just kidding , you know how most of the noobs goes through all these pseudoscience like stuffs at some point in their life . same with me , i am going through a stage like that in my life too , trying to look for something wide and interesting to study .

but i found a really nice book , with this book i can practice proper math

https://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/beginning-algebra/

need some time to practice though :?
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 07, 2017 3:03 am UTC

2. Seems irrelevant. How often is knowing the equation of an ellipse useful?
It shows up fairly often in the world, furniture makers for one, as in fine tables. Glass cutters doing custom panes and so on. And most people can do some form of algebra, they just don't call it that.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Deva » Wed Jun 07, 2017 3:13 am UTC

Perhaps. Rarely highlights practical applications to school-aged children, however.
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Jun 07, 2017 6:40 am UTC

Not everything you learn in Math will be useful on a frequent basis, but the union of all things you learn in Math is likely to be very useful.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Zohar » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:13 pm UTC

Yeah, this notion that school has to only teach you practical things is bizarre to me, and it's incredibly common in complaints about math.
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby doogly » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:30 pm UTC

"There's nothing more practical than a good theory," as Boltzmann said.
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Jun 07, 2017 6:33 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:Yeah, this notion that school has to only teach you practical things is bizarre to me, and it's incredibly common in complaints about math.


If an educator can't come up with a good reason for why they are teaching a subject (beyond: "so you can learn more about this subject next year"), that's a pretty good indicator that they shouldn't be teaching it. Learning for its own sake is great, but if that's why it is being taught, then it doesn't make sense for students that don't find the subject interesting to be forced to take it, rather than something they would prefer to learn about. Forcing people who don't find math interesting to keep taking it without providing an explanation for why just means you'll end up with a population that hates math.

This is maybe a little OT for this topic, but honestly, schools (at least in the North American jurisdictions that I'm familiar with) do a terrible job of teaching practical things. It is inexcusable to have students graduating high school that don't know how to cook for themselves, or make a budget, or fix a leaky toilet, or change a flat tire. It's baffling to me that subjects like these--if they come up at all--might be covered in a single-semester elective course, but we need twelve years' worth of mandatory mathematics in the curriculum.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Zohar » Wed Jun 07, 2017 6:52 pm UTC

I didn't say you should teach boring math in an uninspiring manner, I'm saying "Because it's cool and we can make it look interesting" is reason enough.

As for teaching life-skills, I'm a bit conflicted about that - shouldn't parents be the ones to do so? Like, you say schools do a terrible job of teaching practical things, but should that be their job in the first place?
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Jun 07, 2017 7:51 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:I didn't say you should teach boring math in an uninspiring manner, I'm saying "Because it's cool and we can make it look interesting" is reason enough.

As for teaching life-skills, I'm a bit conflicted about that - shouldn't parents be the ones to do so? Like, you say schools do a terrible job of teaching practical things, but should that be their job in the first place?


That seems completely backwards. Why leave some of the most important skills/knowledge that the child is going to learn up to someone who is not necessarily qualified to teach it, and who may, for one reason or another be unable or unwilling to do so? The whole point of public education is to try to make sure that everyone has an equal footing in adult life regardless of the circumstances of their birth (with varying degrees of success). Depriving some students of basic information about how to function in the adult world is going to be disproportionately harmful--and probably, disproportionately harmful to already disadvantaged students--compared to depriving some students of the joys of learning calculus.

This thought process has been very well hashed out with sexual education in particular, and it's pretty universal that parents do a much worse job, leading to overall worse outcomes, than a well-designed sexual education curriculum within the school system. I'm sure you could probably find similar examples in other subjects though.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Zohar » Wed Jun 07, 2017 8:10 pm UTC

You're absolutely correct about sexual education, but I also thing the consequences of not having sex ed are much graver than not being able to change a tire or cook a meal. Also, safe sex practices don't vary greatly by class/race/other social determinants, whereas how much you cook and do things does vary by quite a bit (I don't have data on this but I'm sure 1%ers cook and do upkeep on their car in a very different way than people below the poverty line).

It's an interesting question, and I'm not sure I know the answer to it.
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby ucim » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:19 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:The whole point of public education is to try to make sure that everyone has an equal footing in adult life...
Uh.... no.

It's to make sure everyone has at least adequate thinking skills and at least some minimum information base to function as an adult. It is in my best interests that your children are educated. They will vote for the next president, and will design the next jetliner. I want them to do a good job. And while it is also in my best interests that your children are raised well, schools do not and should not replace parenting. That would lead way down the wrong path.

I don't care whether they can cook or not, and I don't care if they can change a tire or not, at least up to the point that it becomes a social problem. Sex education fits in there, as does nutrition. But nutrition is different from cooking, though a cooking class can make nutrition cool.

Math is a necessary skill; just a little bit of algebra works wonders on picking investments, for example, and a good understanding of statistics is vital to avoid being fooled by marketers and politicians. But the biggest reason to teach math (and thus a motivation for the way it "ought to be taught") is that it develops abstract thinking skills. Math isn't "cool" if you don't have those skills; it's just drudgery.

Perhaps (I'm thinking off the top of my head... or perhaps halfway down my anatomy) in some people the ability to develop abstract thinking is delayed, and meanwhile they still have to learn how to add and multiply, at the very least to accomplish mundane tasks like making change. They won't enjoy it. Perhaps others are ready for abstraction sooner, and will "get" the idea that multiplication is just repeated addition, and giving power to a number is just shorthand for repeated multiplication. That opens the door wide in the cool department of math; if they can handle that, they can jump into partial integers, imaginary numbers, and different sizes of infinity.

Or, perhaps children are equally ready but their first experience is with a teacher who does not share the coolness of math, but rather, just the mechanics (because you have to make change).

This is what's behind "new math" of the 1960s and 1970s, an experiment that seemed to have... er... "mixed results".

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Jun 07, 2017 10:14 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:The whole point of public education is to try to make sure that everyone has an equal footing in adult life...
Uh.... no.

It's to make sure everyone has at least adequate thinking skills and at least some minimum information base to function as an adult.


Yeah, and it's the latter I'm referring to that, IMHO, schools tend to fail at. Not that they're all that great at the former either.

ucim wrote:It is in my best interests that your children are educated. They will vote for the next president, and will design the next jetliner. I want them to do a good job. And while it is also in my best interests that your children are raised well, schools do not and should not replace parenting. That would lead way down the wrong path.


So what's your solution if the parents aren't doing any parenting?

ucim wrote:I don't care whether they can cook or not, and I don't care if they can change a tire or not, at least up to the point that it becomes a social problem. Sex education fits in there, as does nutrition. But nutrition is different from cooking, though a cooking class can make nutrition cool.


About one in eight Americans get a foodborne illness every year. Improper cooking practices result in almost half of all residential fires. This is entirely aside from the long term health and financial benefits of home cooking.

ucim wrote:Math is a necessary skill; just a little bit of algebra works wonders on picking investments, for example, and a good understanding of statistics is vital to avoid being fooled by marketers and politicians.


I agree with this, but if they're basic life skills, why can't the parents teach these too?

ucim wrote:But the biggest reason to teach math (and thus a motivation for the way it "ought to be taught") is that it develops abstract thinking skills. Math isn't "cool" if you don't have those skills; it's just drudgery.


The second statement would seem to imply that abstract thinking teaches math, not the other way around. Is there any reason to believe that teaching math develops abstract thinking skills better than art? Literature? Video games?

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby ucim » Thu Jun 08, 2017 2:15 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:So what's your solution if the parents aren't doing any parenting?
Figure out why. Go from there.

the foodborne illness link wrote:CDC estimates 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States.
How sick? If we restrict it to the "hospitalized" part, that's one-thirtieth of the population of the US. Yes, that's bad, especially for the victims, but even so, how many of these are due to the kinds of improper food preparation that would be covered in a cooking class? How much of it is due to contamination upstream in agribusiness, over which the hapless chef has no control? Without the answers to those questions, it doesn't convince me that the problem rises to the level of "social problem requiring government usurpation of parental responsibility". And yes, fire safety is important and probably should be addressed in schools, but that's not "cooking classes". It's not alarming that almost half of the fires are kitchen related - where else is there fire and oil? Smoking is probably another big cause, and I'll bet number three is fireplaces. But this is just my speculation absent research.
LaserGuy wrote:I agree with this, but if [algebra and statistics are] basic life skills, why can't the parents teach these too?
Well, for statistics anyway, it has certainly risen to the level of social problem. Look who's president. Alas, statistics isn't taught outside specialty curricula. And while math is "basic life skills", it's also something that society has determined (and I agree) people should have at least a minimum grasp of. That's what public school is for. People do not need a basic grasp of tire changing in the same way. (It's real nice though.)

LaserGuy wrote:The second statement would seem to imply that abstract thinking teaches math, not the other way around. Is there any reason to believe that teaching math develops abstract thinking skills better than art? Literature? Video games?
No research that I know of compares math to art, video games, literature, or anything else you can add to the list. (Sorry, that would violate the rule of three). Video games don't require any more abstract thinking than the situation it portrays; ditto literature (except for the actual act of reading it). Art does promote a certain kind of abstract thinking, and I think is very important to teach in school. But actually doing art (in any of its forms), not just reading about it. Math promotes a different kind of abstract thinking.

Practice develops the skill. Math provides practice, and is ultra-cool to boot. So, it's a feedback loop. If we can start it early (or not kill it before it starts), there's a lot of benefit there.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 08, 2017 2:58 am UTC

ucim wrote:But nutrition is different from cooking, though a cooking class can make nutrition cool.
In a practical sense nutrition requires cooking, since I am at a loss to know how you eat nutritiously without knowing or having minimum cooking skills.
ucim wrote:This is what's behind "new math" of the 1960s and 1970s, an experiment that seemed to have... er... "mixed results".
Such is the nature of experiments. When you get to the other side and the problem is solved you'll know without a doubt the why. Until then experiments are all you have.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby ucim » Thu Jun 08, 2017 3:31 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:In a practical sense nutrition requires cooking...
Understanding nutrition does not require knowing how to cook. It's the understanding of nutrition that's the societally important part for which an "at least" level of understanding should be taught. Once you understand nutrition, you can decide to learn to cook, or to let somebody else cook. But at least you can choose your meals.

There's a difference between what people should learn, and what the state should teach.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 08, 2017 9:26 pm UTC

The state should do whatever I think is best. :wink: Actually, what seems like eons ago in my youth, they taught home economics. Which covered a lot of ground. Of course it was sexist, since it was a "girly" thing, and boys were discouraged. But the skill set involves a lot of math, chemistry, and simple thermodynamics. Low level management skills, since a complex meal requires foresight and preparation. Life skills on steroids so to speak. But that is an unsupported position. YMMV.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby wumpus » Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:55 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:In that case, students seem to be taught the Chinese Room method of "understanding" math.


There's also the issue in that until you hit Geometry, you are learning "arithmetic/computation" and never math*.

Common core may well be eliminating the "Chinese room" issue in math. I was listening to my 5th grade niece simply using all sorts of impressive tricks (law of logarithms, fundamental understanding of algebra). I just hope she can go on an realize how to integrate things into algebra (or not. She has long been since convinced that she knows everything).

* Not that I'm necessarily hostile to arithmetic/computation vs. math. Being an engineer I'd rather have a convincing proof than a formal one, but I can't really call anything I learned before college (save Geometry) "math".

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby mouseposture » Wed Jun 21, 2017 1:23 am UTC

Math is hard, like a lot of other subjects. But unlike a lot of other subjects, you can't dumb it down without making it boring.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Yet-One-More-Idiot » Thu Jun 22, 2017 9:12 pm UTC

I've never quite been able to figure this out myself - right from when I started primary school at the age of 4½, maths was always my most favourite of subjects.

I won't say it always came easily to me - to be honest, I can't clearly remember my first years of primary school (my memory has always been pretty bad xD), but not being able to understand anything when it came to maths wasn't something that ever put me off the subject; if anything, it made it feel like a fun challenge, and I pushed myself more to "get it".

The way I see it, maths in school isn't scary, or insanely hard, or boring. It's just NOT TAUGHT IN A SUFFICIENTLY INTERESTING WAY by most maths teachers. If you get a teacher who really loves the subject and they can impart that enthusiasm to you too, then there's a great chance you'll (learn to) love it. The same goes for maths as for any other subject, imho.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Jun 22, 2017 11:37 pm UTC

Isn't four pretty young to start school?

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Deva » Thu Jun 22, 2017 11:49 pm UTC

Aims pre-kindergarten classes at children aged four to five years old.
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby cyanyoshi » Fri Jun 23, 2017 2:05 am UTC

I started kindergarten at the age of 4. That's not unusual at at all where I grew up at least.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Jun 23, 2017 3:29 am UTC

Around here, preschool (for those who go) typically is for three- and four-year-olds, with the three-year-olds usually staying for just half a day. Primary school starts with kindergarten at five, and first grade (the first year of mandatory education) at six.

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Angua » Fri Jun 23, 2017 10:51 am UTC

I started school at 3 - it was preschool so it ended early (at 3) and mainly did things like reading, counting, and writing letters and numbers. We definitely learnt how to write our own names, and may have started on rudimentary words like bed (I remember bed where they drew a bed around it and I think that was preschool). We learnt to tie our shoes and it was part of the bigger primary school. There was also time for colouring and we did sports days and stuff. I ended up skipping pre-K 2 and going to straight to kindergarten on the school's advice.
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby svenman » Sat Jun 24, 2017 1:22 pm UTC

Interesting. Clearly the terms and their usage varies internationally more than I had realized.

In Germany, school mandatorily starts at six with Grundschule, commonly translated as primary school into English. Kindergarten is not mandatory, can start as early as three (thus also covering what is called pre-school elsewhere) and is not considered a form of school.
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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat Jun 24, 2017 3:46 pm UTC

To me, it does not seem logical to call preschool "school."

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Re: Why do kids in school dread math?

Postby Xanthir » Sun Jun 25, 2017 5:44 pm UTC

It's a place you go with a bunch of other kids to learn things, and is often *part of* an existing elementary school. Don't be that "obviously prepositions can't go at the end of sentences!" person.
(defun fibs (n &optional (a 1) (b 1)) (take n (unfold '+ a b)))


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