Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Math development

  1. May 15, 2005 #1


    User Avatar

    Fairly recently I've been tutoring my 11 year old cousin in math. We've been going over things like equivalent fractions, multiplication, and long division. So far we've been breezing through the sections. His teacher learned about this and would like me to introduce him to more sophisticated levels of math. I think she's right on point because he is very bright. One of my main goals is to get him as comfortable as possible to upper levels of math. Does anyone here have any suggestions as to what I could teach him? I was thinking about walking him through some simple proofs and maybe even a little bit of calculus. Any suggestions are appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 15, 2005 #2
    I would get a school textbook of the class higher than his and look it over to see if anything would work from that. Just start teaching him powers, and if he doesn't know algebra, definitely introduce him to that. Do not introduce him to calculus if he doesn't have a trig background either.
  4. May 15, 2005 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    My advice:

    you have covered arithmetic. the next topic is algebra. the best book i know of is by harold jacobs.

    of course calculus would be absurd, althouhg if he learns graphing, the idea of approximating a polynomial by its linear term conveys the key idea of differential calculus as practiced by fermat.

    after algebra try geometry, again by harold jacobs.

    please do not use any books by john saxon, or by anyone else who dislikes math and considers it a skill to be acquired without thinking or understanding.

    do not force him/her. let the child choose what to pursue from interest.

    or not to do it at all.

    it is essential that the pupil enjoy what is going on, or it will be dropped like a hot rock when the pressure is absent.

    This is based on doing it somewhat wrong with my own kids. after being obliged to read thorugh about half of jacobs algebra book (one afternoon a week), our older son easily won the state title in a math contest, then refused to participate any more.

    Unfortunately the standards of our schools are so low, the child may soon begin to wonder why no one else does anything remotely as challenging and may begin to lose motivation.

    a wonderful program for kids of that age (maybe 12 or older) is the TIP summer program at Duke, but pricy. The good thing is there are other kids there who are all bright, and all interested in learning.

    the entrance requirement is to take the SAT test: yes many 12 year olds take it, and outscore many college bound seniors.

    the hard part of teaching bright kids is that much of the company they keep at school in the US, including the official curriculum, teaches them to want to do nothing essentially.

    the late paul torrance wrote many books on educating gifted kids, especially creative ones. some of these books have collections of challenging problems to foster creativity as opposed to rote learning. example: how many uses can you think of for a wrecked car?

    remember success in scientific research requires creativity as much as mastery of classical mathematics.

    we took another quiet laid back 7 year old child to the torrance center to be tested. the tester asked him to say as many words as he could think of in 30 seconds as a measure of verbal facility and imagination i suppose. the child immediately began counting: "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, 10,....." then stopped suddenly and began laughing at outwitting the question so easily. he continued slowly in a desultory tone, "pig, dog,..." as if it were no longer any fun to play such a stupid game.

    his school considered this child relatively ungifted in math, but on his math sat he outscored me, a full professor of math, and high school state math champ.

    so my experience is that the early technical preparation of a child is relatively unimportant, compared to the love and interest they develop for a subject. so try not to kill that love with over emphasis on advanced training.
    Last edited: May 15, 2005
  5. May 15, 2005 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    I would also recommend you to introduce him to the concept of functions, and, for example making graphs out of these. This is an essential topic, but probably you know that already..
  6. May 15, 2005 #5


    User Avatar

    Perhaps I am trying try to jump ahead too fast. I'll be sure to keep all this info. in mind. Thank you all for the suggestions.
  7. May 15, 2005 #6
    if he is interested in math(particularly problem solving) I suggest you pick up this book i wish i had it when i was in high shool(i do not think calculus would be absurb to teach at that age...depending on his grasp of math)

    anyways teh book is
    "Problem-solving through problems" by Larson
    Its a gift from the gods...i reallly wish i had it in high school it would have helped with contests liek the olympiad, and othe rcanadian contests(descartes)...and when he advanced to university this book will still hold up)
    Proofs aren't really taught in university depending on the math area you go into but its always a useful tool
  8. May 15, 2005 #7
    May I add one thing, while teaching him somewhat new concepts, try to ask him how he would try to figure it out before you teach him. This way he will be learning a very important skill which will make him learn math with much ease in the future. If he can figure things out which are unknown to him at the time, than that is better than having him be an A+ math student who just memorizes things.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook