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A good place for youth math?

  1. Nov 29, 2012 #1
    Hello all,

    My 6 y/o son has shown an interest in math, anatomy & physiology, astronomy etc, right from 3 y/o. His favourite book for the past 3 years has been my university A&P book. He takes it to bed then later asks q's about the body functions like nerve endings in skin, or how the tongue works etc. Mostly from the pictures as his reading abilities are behind his curiosity. He constantly is adding, multiplying and subtracting numbers based on our daily functions. Ie: how long we were at a light for. How long it would have been if it were 7 lights instead of one. What the speed limit is and how far are we going vs the time it should take to get there.

    I myself am interested in all of these subjects, and would like to take credit in exposing him to what little knowledge I have in an interesting and compelling nature. However I fear that his enthusiasm will leave behind my ability to teach and challenge him. Well . . . that would be fine, but I think my real worry is that he will lose interest with a lack of real guidance.

    Any thoughts on good sources for young children to be challenged in these areas in a compelling and insightful way?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 29, 2012 #2


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Excellent question! Where does one find an environment conducive to encouraging a highly motivated and capable student or at least find a mentor or mentors who could provide guidance?

    My grandparents and parents encouraged my education. My paternal grandfather was an avid reader and had a substantial collection of National Geographic, so I'd spend hours in his study reading national geographic. My maternal grandmother bought be a book on evolution and animal behavior. My parents bought me various science books, some of which delved into the advanced mathematics of the science. Although in elementary school, I could not comprehend the equations, I could understand some of the algebra and ponder the meanings of the terms in the equations.

    I'd recommend talking to teachers at the local elementary school to see if they know of some resources. Perhaps talk to teachers at the local junior high and high school, and perhaps even talk with professors at a local university.

    Also, start looking into the Intel and Siemens Science Fairs.

    My wife is a teaching assistant, and she recommends a balanced education, which includes humanities (literature, history, arts, . . . . ) in addition to math and science. Each subject stimulates the brain in different ways, and the more stimulation the more developed the neural network.

    When I was in elementary school (4th grade), my parents bought the Columbia Encyclopedia. The book gave a well balanced mix of history, biography, literary topics, as well as math and science. I could read about topics like nuclear physics, chemistry and the elements (e.g., periodic table), some mathematics, and other topics. Then in my early days at university, my parents bought the Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, which was devoted to mathematics, science and technology. It was great resource.

    In high school, I used to visit the city public library and the various unviersity libraries. I also visited a nearby technical book store where I could buy books on math and science.

    Unfortunately, I didn't have a mentor to guide me.
  4. Nov 30, 2012 #3
    of he doesnt learn from you anymore get him books that teach him without you hopefully it isnt for awhile. and if he is really smart and if he does get bored dont force him to learn but he will come back later on his own
  5. Dec 1, 2012 #4
    I not a child anymore (sob) but I have found a passion for learning about science later in life. I've just finished my b. comp sci, and I think, with hindsight, that computer programming is a fantastic way to learn about technical things in an interactive and practical way. For example, I'm really interested in fractals, beautiful/strange things that they are. They're quite easy to play around with. You can write a computer program to generate, say, the Mandelbrot set without much difficulty. Of course, a little knowledge of programming is required, and there are a few things to learn before this, but with the range of educational and child-oriented languages around I think it would be quite a suitable way of giving a young one something to sink his/her teeth into and explore their own interests.

    I use my programming skills often just to amuse myself. Websites like Project Euler are really fun, it's a giant list of number and pattern puzzles, and most of the ones that I have solved have taken about 10-20 lines of code. Some of them are trivial, and some of them are not, but it's very educational picking a new problem, heading over to Wikipedia, finding out who Fermat (or someone else) is, the history of attempts to solve the problem, various insights into different branches of mathematics, funny anecdotes, applications of the problem to this field and that field, biology maybe, or cryptography, or whatever. It's not structured, and I would learn more if I took a maths course, but it's fun and I if I tire of something, I just find something else. It keeps me curious!

    edit: oh, I meant to leave this link, a list of educational programming languages, I don't know much about any of them, but you might like to peruse them. :)

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