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Why is it so important we help get our children interested in maths and science?
It provides a fantastic grounding and set of skills for kids. When you approach science you’re always trying to answer a question so it’s problem-solving skills, it’s analytical skills, and not at a really high level. It’s even about 'how do I kick this football better?' or 'how do I work as a team better?' or 'how do I approach any problem?'.You’re not necessarily training them to become a scientist, mathematician or work in technology. It’s about them having an appreciation for it and using it to make life better. It’s all about creating a better life for themselves but also potentially having a better career for themselves. Having that grounding, those transferable skills and that approach is one of the key things that will drive a career and an economy forward.
How do we get them interested?
Don’t be afraid to not know the answer. Sometimes the best thing you can tell a kid is that you don’t know the answer but you go find out together. You can have these conversations with them and employ different areas of learning with them. Even very simple stuff like giving them the money to make the transaction in a shop and saying 'that cost 36cent and I gave you a euro, how much do you have left?'. In everyday life, look around when you’re driving down the road and if you see a bridge, talk about how it was made. Look for science in the everyday life. Don’t be afraid not to know the answers and go find out together. That’s one of the best ways to empower children.
Where do we go to find out more?
You can go to a lot of places to find out more about science in Ireland. There’s Science Week where 800 events happen around the country, the vast majority are free. There’s technology week, maths week, engineers week. There are websites like www.science.ie for events, www.smartfutures.ie for older, more career based, stuff and there’s www.primaryscience.ie that has experiments that use stuff you’d have in your cupboard that you can do at home with your kids. That’s a really good example of you sharing the experience and enjoying it together
Philip Smyth is an award-winning scientist with over 12 years experience in designing, developing and delivering public engagement programs all over Ireland. His principal research interests lie in the field of communication, specifically engaging and exciting an interest in the sciences in students of all ages. For more parenting advice, head to RTÉjr's blog for grown ups.