# How to inspire a love of maths, with Professor Chris Lawrence

Professor Chris Lawrence, Dean of Indigenous Engagement at Curtin University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, gives his top tips for teaching your child to like – or even love – maths.

## Have you always loved maths, or did it take some time?

It took me a while to figure out that I love maths. It wasn’t easy learning maths and as you progress you learn more about maths and how much we rely on it every day. As I did more studies I learnt more and I am still learning.

Maths is like the universe – never ending!

## Do you remember what originally (or eventually) inspired a love of maths in you?

I always wanted to fly and I used to fly in my dreams as a kid. I always thought of UFOs and other life forms in the galaxy. I figured maths is a big part of flying so this always captured my imagination.

In my primary school teaching training, I had to create maths lessons for the students. So, I always thought of interesting ways to inspire the kids. This also helped me better understand different ways to learn about maths.

Later, when I studied my Masters in Applied Epidemiology, I was forced to learn about statistics – large data sets of numbers. I had to learn how to do the maths on computer software that could calculate large numbers in data sets. But the trick was you had to come up with a formula to calculate the numbers. So you had to be clever about the questions you wanted answers for.

Maths was the key to unlock the information I wanted from the data sets. I eventually mastered this and was able to perform calculations, but time and patience is important. So never give up!

Maths is very important for everyone in so many situations. Remembering your phone number requires maths. We all have different ways we remember numbers and that’s how we get around. Using maps to travel, bus timetables, catching a plane, buying stuff from the shops, the best way to walk or ride home all requires logistical thinking – that’s maths.

## Why is maths important or valuable to everyone?

Maths is very important for everyone in many situations. Remembering your phone number requires maths. We all have different ways we remember numbers and that’s how we get around. Using maps to travel, bus timetables, catching a plane, buying stuff from the shops, the best way to walk or ride home all requires logistical thinking – that’s maths.

Maths is also important for the weather and environment. I can tell what time it is in the morning when I hear the first bird call. The little birds start earlier than the big birds. So I know if it’s 5 am or 6 am. That’s because I listen to the pattern of the birds. Also when I hear traffic going past I know people are travelling to work so it gets me up.

Maths is also important for life. Managing our health and wellbeing requires maths. If you go to the gym and run like I do, then I have to calculate the weights I’m going to use and when I go running, I do the maths of how far I can run and how long it will take me. Time is also maths. That’s how we get through the day and night.

## Aren’t some people just inherently bad at maths? Why should I push my child to study a subject they’re struggling with?

These days, I don’t think anyone is ‘bad’ at maths. Maybe our grandparents were taught differently about maths, but most children these days learn more about different ways to use maths in school, and they have calculators as well to perform more advanced maths.

We all use maths differently in our lives. It’s critically important to give children the basics in maths and encourage them to do more as they grow and learn more. Basic maths is going to help set children up for life. Just like reading and writing, as well as being able to communicate effectively.

Make maths fun! There are lots of books, games, electronic games and outdoor adventures that all require some form of maths.

## If I struggle with maths myself, how can I help my child?

Talking with the teacher helps. The teacher is often the one who knows how children learn in class and they can help parents support the child at home. Parents/carers should have a good relationship with the school and the teachers.

## Anything else you’d like to add?

My supervisors always told me, ‘Don’t think about it, just do it!’

## Sticking with maths is one thing, but loving it? How do I turn my (or my child’s) mere tolerance of maths into a full-blown love affair?

Make maths fun! There are lots of books, games, electronic games and outdoor adventures that all require some form of maths.

Be creative with your child. Get them to help plan trips or shopping lists. You could sing about maths while doing stuff at home with them, especially the younger ones. Get older children to teach you about maths. Get them to show you what they are learning at school. You could take them to science and maths events, and museums often have activities for children that involve maths. Consider buying maths books and leaving them around the house, or help your kids with their homework, and talking about maths at the dinner table also helps. We all need support in our lives.