Fun multiplication and division - How to make math exciting for a child?


If we think back to our own school studies, mathematics was considered a boring subject for many of us. However, in our school, which is run in partnership with UNICEF, students keenly prepare every day for the lessons of this difficult subject. No wonder, beacuse Aunt Judit tries to teach the children the basic concepts of mathematics in a playful and creative way.

"I had a student who had already gone to Fonyód with his family, but he became very close to my heart. After they moved out of the campsite on Friday, he wrote to me on Sunday and asked me: - Aunt Judit, will there be school tomorrow? Tell Riki to study! To which I replied: - Yes, and I will tell him! You should learn too, we will miss you! To this he replied that I will miss you too!"

Tell me a little about your class! How many children are in a group? In terms of learning, what level are the kids at?

There are currently 14 of us in my class, but this will change soon, as there will be a fifth group in addition to the existing 4 classes. As a result, some will be transferred to that class. Most of the students had basic knowledge, but their knowledge was not appropriate for their age. The young people could write at some level, but only in printed letters. Furthermore, they always only wrote down their first names, leaving out their last names, so I had to tell them to write their full names on the sheet.

 Refugee children study hard
Refugee children study hard

Looking back on my first day, I was a little scared. So far, I have only taught private students, I have not taught group lessons yet. I'll be honest, the first week was very difficult, but after that the teaching went smoothly and it was good to come out here. The children run up to me, help me bring the books, it gives me a lot of energy. Not only them, but I also learn together with them. It's a kind of symbiosis. Of course, there are days when I'm in a worse mood, but they sense this in me and are sympathetic in such cases. I can say that we have found common ground and I think we have developed a good relationship with each other.

What are you currently teaching your class?

I teach math. We started by repeating simple numbers and progressed to multiplication and division. But, for example, we have already taken over unit conversions, and geometry, the use of circles. I am now trying to introduce the word problems into the lessons.We will add new subjects to the timetable soon. I will also have a technique class, during which I will introduce the concepts and practices of Highway Code to the children. I have many ideas, mainly I want to teach them knowledge of everyday life, I think of such simple things as tying a tie. In addition, drama and singing lessons will be new for them. Here, too, we will proceed step by step. In singing class, we will take over the Hungarian Anthem first.

"I think that children miss physical education classes the most. Their need for exercise is huge. That's why I surprised my class with a soccer ball for Christmas so that anyone can use it."

What methods do you teach?

I would like to make mathematics more tangible for them. I teach practically, so it is easier for students to remember what was said in class. My method is to link to everything as well. For example, if they don't know how much 1 kg is, then associate it with something they can touch and already know, say 1 kg of sugar that they buy in the store. We also form student pairs. This means that I group a better student with a few good ones. I pay attention to the fact that whoever is ahead in learning does not solve the tasks, but shows his partner how to solve the examples.

I especially want to achieve that they can use what they learned in the lessons in everyday life. We will fill out a check, and also address a letter.

"I want them to be happy in life and be a useful member of society. When they become parents, they should be able to help their children."

 The children are happy to attend Aunt Judit's classes
The children are happy to attend Aunt Judit's classes

Sometimes I also use math jokes to teach. Dry facts do not hold their attention, nor are they guaranteed to stick in their memory. Even if I tell you the story that the set of whole numbers is denoted with a capital letter Z because it comes from the German word Zahlen (numbers), it will not be remembered that way. Instead, I try to mix funny and playful things in a way that is useful. 

I tell this little joke quite often to the children: A woman walks down a dark street and is attacked by a robber. All of a sudden, a masked man jumps out of one of the bushes and saves the woman, then carves a large letter Z into the tree. When the woman exclaims: thank you for saving me set of whole numbers!

Were the school standards difficult for the children to get used to?

Yes, it was quite difficult for them to get used to the routine. In the first hours, they shouted out the solution without raising their hands. We progressed in small steps, first we taught them to apply. Only then will they tell me the answer when I call them. It was also a challenge to wean the students from bickering and fighting. It is still present to this day, but much more moderate. However, we are making good progress, today I had a student on duty, who erases the blackboard, stands in front of the class and recites the well-known text. Homework is also regularly done, and even demanded! If I let them go home with homework, someone always tells them the next day.

Are the children ready to continue their studies at a school in Debrecen?

I have had a student since September who has improved surprisingly much. Of course, I can see progress in everyone, but there are some young people who have made particularly significant progress.

"I think everyone could continue, it just takes willpower and time. We start from a big disadvantage, but these children are also suitable for further education and development. They are no different from average school students."

The study room provides an opportunity for even more practice
The study room provides an opportunity for even more practice

There was a little boy who waited for the school in front of the reception every morning with his blue bag on his back long before classes started. He was placed in the beginner group as he was not yet at a level appropriate for his age, but he wanted to move up to be in the same class as his age group. I told him to go to the study room and I would help him learn the basics. I assured him that if he memorized the multiplication table, he could be transferred to the older group, where there are already people his age. I also brought him a left-handed ruler and showed him how to edit with his left hand. He has a lot of will power. He just wants to be an average teenager who wants to go to school with his own age group and experience joint programs with them.In one of the afternoon study rooms, he appeared alone. 

They just drilled the board, so it was more difficult to practice, but he still came and stayed there the whole time, diligently practicing the multiplication table. In the end, all the invested energy was worth it, because now he continues his studies in the older group.

During these few months, was there a decisive memorable moment during your time here?

Of course, I had a lot of positive experiences! We just started a new project, during which everyone wrote down what they wanted to be when they grew up on small notes. My plan is to put these desires on the wall so that it will be in front of their eyes every day and will motivate them. And I will help them and tell them what they need to do to make it happen.

Many wanted to be footballers. But I had a student who wanted to be an architect. For example, he really likes origami. There are those who are interested in beauty and imagine themselves as nail artists. However, there was one little girl who really surprised me with her answer. He wants to be a math teacher. No one has said that to me before, I was touched and it really affected me sensitively.For these moments, I know that we are moving in the right direction and that our work is needed.