Why 5-year-olds should learn calculus

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Be honest, are you a fan of math? If you’re like the majority of the population that aren’t mathematicians, probably not. Many of us were put off by ‘meaningless math’ growing up; with some of us even feeling anxious around the whole subject. However, there is one woman who is trying to remove people’s hatred of math – and she thinks we should all start early.

Meet Maria Droujkova

Dr. Maria Droujkova is a parent, a mathematics education consultant and a developer of the curriculum. She is also the founder of the network Natural Math, which aims to bring together parents, authors, and teachers, in an effort to combat the hatred of math. In a recent Reddit AMA (ask me anything) she explained that her goal is to make calculus something accessible for children as young as 5-year-old… Something that many of us math-haters would make us run for the hills. However, she truly believes that children as young as five can (and should) learn what is often deemed some of the hardest parts of math, such as calculus.

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The point of learning higher level math

During the AMA, she found a lot of people asking whether learning higher-level math (such as calculus) would really be useful in the long-term. After all, not all young children dream of being engineers or mathematicians when growing up. So, would there be any point in teaching them something they may never learn? Maria explains that advanced math can be seen as something used for beauty – just like poetry, music, and art. Understanding how numbers work can also help people see them in the context of the universe, something equally as beautiful. Finally, she questions what the universe would be like if everyone had a higher math literacy; how much this could change our lives for the better.

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Explaining calculus to a kid

This all sounds well and good, but how do you actually teach a 5-year-old calculus? Firstly, Maria shows the children how important (and exciting) math can be. They focus on inspirational stories that children could technically recreate at home. For example, using origami to recreate some of the same models NASA uses to fold solar sails into spaceships. Now that does sound like fun! Much of what Dr. Maria Droujkova enforces is learning through play, activities, math games, and much more. There are even activities that can be carried out when children are less than a year old, such as ‘hide and seek equations’ and teaching gradients by making a baby compare and contrast several versions of the same toy. Through multi-sensory activities and play, children can begin to grasp the basics of advanced math such as calculus.

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Should you teach your kid calculus?

One of the questions in the Reddit AMA was asking whether early academic training could cause harm in the long term? However, many studies show that formal training is the issue here – not learning through play. So as long as you’re not trying to overload your child with impossible equations and always testing them, then there’s no reason why you can’t teach them something like calculus. Natural Math, the network set up by Maria, has plenty of activities you can use to teach your child advanced maths without putting any unnecessary pressure on them.

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It’s important not to let our own dislike of math reflect on our children and starting them early is a great way of ensuring they always have a love for learning. However, it’s important to follow the right path with multi-sensory activities and games, such as those created by Maria and other parents, to ensure your child is never scared by calculus (like we were at school).

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