Can Mathematical Problems Help Promote Mindfulness In Children?

Can Mathematical Problems Help Promote Mindfulness In Children?

I have recently found myself incredibly interested in whether it is possible to find ‘mathematical’ or ‘puzzle’ activity which is rich in the promotion of mindfulness skills.

The National Curriculum in the UK states that;

Pupils should be taught to make connections and approach problems in a variety of forms, in order to identify what they need to do. Develop flexible approaches to problem solving and look for ways to overcome difficulties. Present and interpret potential solutions in the context of the problem. To explain their methods and reasoning, develop logical thinking and search for patterns when solving problems.’

My initial thought is if you set mathematical challenges which relate to working systemically could this be relevant to the practices of meditative activity? Meditative activity can be defined simply as ‘being involved and absorbed in considered thought’. I wonder then, if children are engaged in regular ‘meditative’ mathematical problem solving activities would they find this benefits them when they engage in meditation or in their day-to-day lives?

Whilst you can and indeed I do look at this from a completely secular position, it is interesting to place some Buddhist context on the question. It is claimed that when Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and gained enlightenment, he was initially troubled by Mara (a serpent) who tested Buddha’s commitment and perseverance (an emotional often felt with a difficult challenge) which he eventually overcame.

His last awareness under the Bodhi tree was said to be the realisation of dukkha or suffering. We do indeed ‘suffer’ in everyday life and things can be difficult. Could exposure by children to problems and puzzles which need (as Buddha laid out in the noble eight-fold-path; right effort, right action, right mindfulness, right concentration) skills to be solved, be of benefit beyond just the puzzle solving at the time and potentially give children tools to cope with other difficulties they will encounter?

Such activities I can think of are playing chess, sudoku puzzles, riddles and the challenges set out on the incredible nrich.maths.org site.

Do you know of activities which could promote managing distractions, noticing, perseverance, staying in the present moment, reflecting, revising, making connections, reasoning and questioning? If so please leave your examples in the comments box.