“I don’t like math anymore,” announced my 8-year old son taking another plate out of the dishwasher and carrying it to the pantry.
“Where does this come from?” I spun around in surprise, “You said you liked math!” It was such an unexpected revelation I forgot that I was measuring ingredients into a bread machine and tipped the flour over with my elbow. The white powder covered the kitchen floor like a white blanket.
“I changed my mind,” my son shrugged casually.
We do year-round homeschooling, but recently we took a little break to adjust to a life with a new baby. When, after six weeks of no school, I asked my son to pick his math curriculum (Waldorf Math, Singapore math or computer based CTC Math), he surprised me with his announcement that he doesn’t like math anymore.
I have always been “you are responsible for your own education” type of parent. All those long talks about making your own choices would seem insincere, if I now turned around and said, “I can’t let you avoid math because you decided you don’t like it. You have to do the math lessons, whether you like it or not.” But with the new baby in my arms and black circles under my eyes, I really didn’t have it in me to be inspirational and accepting. I just needed some sort of math to be done every day and with very little energy and time investment from me. How could I reignite his interest in math without too much strain on my sleep deprived mind?
And then I remembered the other time my son said he didn’t like something. That was when he decided that he didn’t like reading anymore. I got him the Dragon Master Series and read the first two books to him out loud. Then I pretended to be too busy to continue. He complained about it for a bit, then picked up book #3 and started reading it on his own. Book #4 was a natural next step after that. By book #5 there was no stopping him. Book #6 was read in one day and book #7 in one setting. Book #8 is coming out in the fall, and he can’t wait for it.
So, how could I make math so enticing, he couldn’t help but want to do it? And how could I turn it into a series?
Star Wars Math
The answer came to me the next day. What does my son love? First, Star Wars and second, mysteries of any kind. Star Wars Mystery should work for my purpose. And if we did it for seven days in a row, then it might even turn into I-love-math again. At least the idea gave me some hope.
Why seven days? It’s my personal magical transformation number that I acquired going through life. I have noticed that when I do something for seven days in a row, at the end of the week, I feel like it has become a solid part of my life and it, essentially, becomes a new habit. There is probably nothing magical about the number ‘seven‘ except that the mere fact of doing something for a whole week signifies to the mind a new status quo.
So, I came up with the following seven Star Wars mystery messages to ignite a love of math. And I’m happy to tell you, it worked! After doing one mystery a day for a week, my son has decided that he likes math again and voluntarily picked up the Life of Fred Elementary Math series. It’s an amusing, story type math with a few problems at the end of each chapter. He typically does more than one chapter at a time and his six-year-old sister often joins in on the fun because Fred’s adventures (or rather misadventures) seem even sillier with a laughing companion by your side.
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Instructions for the Mysteries
The following download has seven mystery quotes from Star Wars movies. Let your child do one each day this week. They will probably beg you to do them all at once. Resist! The idea is to make them excited about math. An anticipation of fun with math is a necessary step in the process!
Step 1. Solve each number sentence and write down the answer.
Step 2. Write the letters that match the numbers into the squares.
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If your kids love Star Wars, they might also enjoy our Star Wars Science.