Maths is Everywhere

Written by Norah

Early childhood educator and resource developer.

February 21, 2021

Maths is something many say they can’t do and didn’t enjoy in school. Many say it’s too boring or too complex or that they don’t understand it. If you have an aversion to maths, you’re not alone, and you probably don’t want me quoting figures about what percentage of the population suffers from it. Let me just say, it’s a big number.

However, we use maths every day. We couldn’t function fully in everyday life without it. From the moment we wake up and look at the clock until shutting down at night, we are using mathematics. Even if you don’t look at the clock, knowing that it’s morning is using maths.

You see, many think of maths as having to do exclusively with numbers, but it is more than that. It involves patterns, shape, probability, data collection and problem solving. We use it almost every moment of the day without giving it a thought.

We use it when we schedule events in order, like deciding what we will do in the day or even in what order we will be dress ourselves.

We use it when we sort items to place onto shelves, in cupboards or drawers.

We use it to work out our budget — what to spend and what to save.

We use it to navigate our way around the neighbourhood or places further afield. 

Since maths is such an integral part of everyday life, it is important to avoid, as far as possible, passing on one’s anxiety about maths to children, not just because they are equally capable of developing it on their own, but because they’d be better off without it.

If a child does experience difficulty in any areas of maths – try to avoid reinforcing it by saying that you always had trouble with maths. Instead, say something like, yes, it is difficult, but we can work on it. We’ll figure it out. Encourage them (and you) to develop a growth, rather than a fixed, mindset. We can all learn given the appropriate support.

As an early childhood educator, I focus on helping children find enjoyment and purpose in the world around them, including things mathematical, from a young age.

Here are a few ways to get your children using maths in everyday situations (without necessarily labelling it as maths) that make its use fun. The suggestions come from 25 ways to keep the children thinking mathematically during the holidays. The full list can be downloaded free from readilearn here.

Number and place value
  • Count items e.g. birds in the sky, shells collected from the beach, people for lunch, steps in a staircase, windows on a house, seats in a bus . . .
  • Include your child in shopping activities
  • When your child is sharing e.g. the biscuits, balloons or slices of fruit, ask them to:
    • Predict if there will be enough for everyone to have one, or more than one each
    • Share out the items, allocating the same number to each
    • Determine if there are any left over and what to do with them
  • Use terms like half and quarter correctly, e.g. when cutting apples, oranges, sandwiches, pizza, to indicate pieces of equal size
  • Read books with number concepts e.g. Pat Hutchins’s The Doorbell Rang, Eric Carle’s Rooster’s off to see the world or Kim Michelle Toft’s One Less Fish
Patterns and algebra
  • Use items to make patterns e.g. sort and create a pattern from shells collected at the beach
  • Look for patterns in the environment e.g. fences, tiles, walls and window, zebra crossings
Measurement and geometry
  • Include your child in cooking activities and allow or support them to:
    • measure the ingredients
    • set the temperature on the oven
    • work out the cooking finish time
  • A child’s understanding of volume and capacity can be developed when they:
    • pour glasses of water from the jug and discuss terms such as enough, full, empty, half or part full, more, less
  • Scales can be used to compare the mass of different items or quantities e.g., compare an apple and an orange, measure the quantity of butter required for a recipe
  • Measuring length can be included by:
    • measuring and comparing height
  • Use the calendar to
    • learn the names and sequence of days in the week or months in the year
    • count the passing days or the number of days until an event
Probability and statistics
  • When discussing the weather or desired activities include the language of probability e.g. possible, certain, likely, unlikely, impossible

These are just a few simple ideas to get you started. I’m sure you will think of many other everyday activities that will help your children develop mathematical concepts.

Celebrate Maths with the International Day of Mathematics

Another reason to celebrate maths and to turn around any negative attitudes is the International Day of Mathematics coming up soon on March 14. This year’s theme is Mathematics for a Better World. I can find no argument with that goal.

If you are keen to be involved, there are suggestions on the website, including a poster competition which is open until 1 March. Most of the suggestions are suitable for older children in classroom groups and organised events. However, I think the Scavenger Hunt could be used by a family working together and the Paper Activities could be adapted for younger children or substituted with; for example, making origami shapes, making shapes from tangrams, completing jigsaw puzzles and colour by number activities.

A gift for you

Many lessons and activities in mathematics for children aged 5 – 7 are available at readilearn. Like the list above, many are free. Others are available individually or as a collection through a small annual subscription. If you would like to see what’s available and whether they may be of benefit to your children, I am happy to offer Carrot Ranchers the first year’s subscription free. Simply use carrot at the checkout to obtain your gift (valid until the International Day of Mathematics, 14 March 2021).

But wait there’s more — Pi Day

Many of you will already know March 14 as Pi Day, celebrated because the date is often written as 3/14 and Pi (the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) is approximately 3.14.

The Pi Day website is also loaded with mathematical information and activities. I really enjoyed reading the Top 25 Most Interesting Pi Facts. It also lists ten reasons why mathematics is important and has information and videos to support understanding of some hard-to-get concepts.

The Exploratorium is also a great resource for learning about Pi. And of course, if all else fails on Pi Day, eat pie. Of course, you will discuss what fraction of the pie each person gets, won’t you?

The Birthday Paradox

In her post here at the Carrot Ranch last week, D. Avery stated that her husband and her sister-in-law’s mother shared a birthday. In response to the post, Ritu commented that there were a number of overlapping birthdays in her family, and I agreed that there were also a number in mine. I am constantly amazed by the frequency with which births, deaths and other events in my family fall on the same date while other dates remain bare.

I guess the further you cast the net, the more dates will coincide. However, I was intrigued by a phenomenon referred to as the birthday paradox. This states that in a room of 23 people, there is a fifty-fifty chance of two people having the same birthday. It doesn’t seem that likely to me but then others more mathematically able have worked out the probability.

What’s your birthday?

I thought it might be fun to compare dates to see how many of the Carrot Ranchers’ birthdays overlap. To join in, just pop your birthday (no year required) in the comments. I’m 18 June.

Matching family birthdays

Although I am one of 10 (so 12 in the family), there are no overlapping birthdays, though some are close with just one day apart. We only have to move sideways and compare the cousins’ birthdays to find a few that match, some with three or more sharing the same day.

I was interested in the following information that came up when searching the birthday paradox, so I followed it to the source at KLTV and an article about Unusual Mother Trivia

The highest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev (1707-1782) of Shuya, Russia. Between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 confinements, she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. 67 of them survived infancy.

My mind boggles. Of course, each set of twins, triplets and quadruplets share the same date, but there were 27 ‘confinements’, so chances are there were at least two matching birthdates in different years. Unfortunately, there appears to be no proof of the births or of the claim itself. Vassilyev’s wife, identified as Valentina in this article on Wikipedia, must have been healthy and strong. In fact, the meaning ‘healthy and strong’ is attributed to the name Valentina. Another coincidence? What are the chances of that?

Enjoy your mathematical encounters.

Until next time.

Norah

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109 Comments

    • Norah

      Happy birthday!

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Thank you! As always, I love your tips for encouraging maths to occur naturally in the home. Wonderful post!

      • Norah

        Thank you. So pleased you enjoyed the post. And so quickly too! (more maths. ????????)

  1. petespringerauthor

    I’m more the analytic type. Math used to be my favorite subject in school. Yes, there are oddballs like me around.

    • Norah

      I never minded maths. I always prided myself on being quick and able to problem solve. I think my speed has reduced somewhat of late – I don’t need to use it so much. Unfortunately a ‘teacher’ in years 11 and 12 didn’t live up to the title and I failed senior maths, as did most of the class. My son has a Phd in computer science – he is a mathematician, and my daughter with a Phd in social sciences loves and lectures in statistics. I like to think I encouraged their mathematical leanings from an early age (alongside an interest in reading and writing) but there were a few other mathematicians amongst my siblings so there may have been an inherited ability. Hub also uses mathematics in his work as a carpenter/joiner. He wouldn’t want to make mistakes in any of his calculations. ????

  2. ellenbest24

    I have probably passed several anxieties to my now grown children, unconsciously of course. But my mathematics weakness is not one. I just became exhausted by my like

  3. Chel Owens

    I always hope Valentina’s story got tweaked over the years!

    Besides a probability equation, more people are born at certain times of year because of times they’re inside more (quarantine, anyone?) or times of prosperity. Unintentionally, our birthdays are clumped around March/April (I’m 3/23) and December. 🙂

    • Norah

      I agree with you about Valentina. I can’t imagine giving birth to 69 children, even if there were *only* 27 pregnancies.
      I think those statements you made about births at certain times are probably true too.
      I don’t understand how you can be 3/23 and December?

      • Chel Owens

        Sorry. I meant that I am 3/23 and that most of the rest of my family (husband and 3/5 of the kids) are in March and April. The other two are in December.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Chelsea. That’s interesting.

  4. ellenbest24

    Oh dear these fat fingers sent my comment off too soon again. ???? ( like) If we cook our favourite meal too often, But doing it is a huge chore. You missed out on some of your lessons that you never caught up on, therefore even cooking what you like becomes a headache, a struggle to produce, very soon you tell yourself … I am bad at this and begin avoiding that dish. After working in Management for twenty plus years, payroll, and time management, taxes and full accounts for an area of a chain of high end boutiques meant maths. So when I stopped that work, I remember saying, “Thank the Lord, no more fretting or doing maths. I had found formulas for it all. I had obviously producied the correct answers, (without thoroughly understanding the working out) and as head of training I coached many others how to do the job. Without them knowing I had a note book full of formulas that gave the correct answers. Exhausting, if only we (4 girls) had not been pushed from school to school, county to county. If only we did not have so many holes in our education. All four have different areas of our schooling, with gaping chasms; that were never found. So I tax my brai,n and feel inadequate, frustrated or mathematically exhausted as little as possible now. My children all use their maths with confidence two of them excell in the field. So I covered it up well and did not let it show. My birthday Nora is 24/07/57. And this is the first time I have admitted my struggle to anyone. If only I had one teacher like you. #SelfTaughtSurvivor My one saving grace were the English teachers and an Auntie who encouraged my love of words, story, books and imagination.

    • Anne Goodwin's Sugar and Snails is free in February

      Ellen, thanks sharing your story. I’m not great with figures but studied maths at university where it’s all formulae. Yes, more enjoyable if you know where they come from but what’s wrong with using shortcuts if they get the job done? And what skills you must have developed to compensate for those gaps in your education.

      • Norah

        I think that shows quite a degree of creativity and problem solving ability, Anne. Ellen has done well.

      • ellenbest24

        Yes, short cuts are good and you still have to source them. Though it makes you double check everything mathamatical for ever. The feeling of being inadequate and uneducated, the anxiety of being outed never goes. Even if ( as I did) you take some night classes in accounting and breeze through it wonderfully; you don’t ever trust the result. So I worry about the children with a year of missed formal education, all over the world the pandemic has left gaps like mine.

      • Norah

        I hope that the gaps that result from pandemic shutdowns will be filled for all as time goes on, Ellen. I think it’s more difficult in situations such as you experienced when the gaps are not shared by everyone. I think you overcame any possible disadvantage from your gaps extremely well.

      • ellenbest24

        Xxx

      • Anne Goodwin's Sugar and Snails is free in February

        I’m not an educationalist, so can’t say for sure, but I think those gaps will feel different, and have a different impact, when they’re shared by the whole generation. I think it might be more painful in your situation when you’ve been disadvantaged relative to others in your cohort. But perhaps gaps in education are more common than we realise, as Norah says sometimes teachers just aren’t up to the job.
        I loved Chemistry, liked the teacher, but a high proportion of us failed O-level. I also missed two terms through illness that year. But I guess it’s hardest when you miss out on the foundations, which is why we need so many teachers like Norah to put them in place.
        PS. I admire your writing and so glad your literacy skills didn’t suffer in the same way.

      • Norah

        What a lovely supportive comment for Ellen, Anne. I think you’re right about many of us having gaps. It is always more difficult to catch up if the foundations are missed.

    • Norah

      Hi Ellen,
      Thank you for your lovely comment, explaining how, just because you can do something well doesn’t mean you like it. I understand how you might tire of doing calculations all day for over 20 years. I think my mind would boggle too. It’s good that you were able to create formulas that worked and teach others how to use them too.
      I think it’s great the way that we as parents try to avoid passing on our fears and phobias. Mostly we are successful, but sometimes I see little cracks that I think I may have set in motion. Fortunately, they are not too damaging.
      I’m so pleased you had an aunt and English teachers who encouraged your love of language and creativity. Everybody needs someone to inspire and support them.

      • ellenbest24

        I loved your post, and realised how hard it is if kids miss certain building blocks of education on the way through school. We struggle all our lives trying to work out which bits we missed. My daughter is director of primary education in a catchment of Cambridgshire UK so I know I managed to keep my failures to my self. Have a great week, stay safe Norah.

      • Norah

        You have done very well, Ellen. Sometimes it’s the realisation that we’ve missed something that puts us on a path to healing those gaps. I know it was so for me and I did my best (not saying I couldn’t have done better) to avoid leaving holes for my children. Looks like we’ve both succeeded in that. 🙂

  5. Anne Goodwin's Sugar and Snails is free in February

    I was meant to be wrangling words today, not numbers, but you got me with the birthday paradox. There was a time I had that formula on the tip of my tongue. I think it might be something like this:
    365 possible birthdays
    1/365 probability of having a specific birthday
    22 x 1/365 probability of sharing a specific birthday
    something something right through the group so the overall probability is
    22 x 1/365 + 21 x 1/365 + 20 x 1/365 + … + 2 x 1/365 + 1 x 1/365
    I got bored testing this out but it seemed to be going in the right direction but hoping someone else will have a red pen handy to mark my work.
    I think our surprise that the probability isn’t much lower relates to our understanding of randomness. For example, people doing the lottery resist selecting an ordered sequence of numbers like
    1 2 3 4 5 6
    because it doesn’t LOOK random, but it’s just as likely as
    2 6 15 17 22 28
    or any other combination.
    I wonder if the pandemic is helping people become more numerate as we watch those infographics of the latest stats, or people simply switch off.
    Your ideas for promoting numeracy among children are great. I wonder how many of our generation were turned off by reciting times tables. I can still recall the terror, and still can’t rattle off 6 X 7 etc but fortunately managed to bypass the basics to study mathematics at university where it’s all logic and puzzles. What’s not to like?

    • Norah

      Thanks for your explanation of the birthday paradox, Anne. I remember reading about it years ago in a book about mathematics for children. It just didn’t seem possible. You’re right about drawing lines between it and the idea of randomness in the lottery too. Someone here just won $50 mill in the lottery. No doubt people will be rushing to buy a ticket at the same agency and using his winning numbers.
      That’s an interesting thought about people becoming more numerate as a result of the pandemic. The numbers are definitely a priority in so many of the reports and, as you say, the data is represented in infographics.
      I already knew (fancy that) that you are a keen mathematician so am delighted to have you add to the discussion in this way. I agree with you – what’s to not like about logic and puzzles.
      (Shhh. Funnily – or embarrassingly – enough, I made a mistake with the publication date and pushed ‘publish’ a day early. Maybe I need to do a bit more work with time and the calendar. ????)

      • Anne Goodwin's Sugar and Snails is free in February

        Ha, yeah, I noticed it was a day early. A sign of busyness and enthusiasm rather than a lack of numeracy. Also the fact that Tuesday at the Ranch is Wednesday for you (or the other way around, dates and time zones too easily confused).

      • Norah

        Thanks for your kindness, Anne. It was actually confusion. I had 22nd written down. When I realised 22nd was Monday and not Tuesday, I thought it was strange, but, silly me, I didn’t check it was meant to be Tuesday of the week beginning 22nd. I should have checked before I hit publish.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I thought I heard some pounding on the saloon door last night. Are ya thirsty Buddy? All good, we have to make time for math(s).

      • Norah

        Thanks for letting me in. 🙂

  6. LucciaGray

    4th June and year 1959! In case someone else is a complete match! I did struggle with maths at school, but I passed my exams and went on to do a thesis, 15 years ago, with plenty of statistics, which was another mathematical hurdle I overcame! I help my 10 year old grandson with his maths homework, he enjoys maths and gets the idea quickly! I’ll download the redilearn summer worksheet. Thanks!

    • Norah

      Thanks for joining in with your birthday and impressions of maths at school, Luccia. It’s amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it, eh? I’m pleased your grandson is enjoying maths.

  7. Doug Jacquier

    As mentioned elsewhere, July 14 for me. I was fine at arithmetic up to my early high school years (and still am) but got lost in maths later on and switched to the humanities. PS – Sorry, but the pedant in me can’t let the tautology of ‘free gift’ go unmentioned. 😉

    • pedometergeek

      One of my aunt’s birthdays was July 14 by the way.

      • Doug Jacquier

        What a delightful person shemust have been. 🙂

      • Norah

        ????????????

      • Norah

        And one of my brothers shares that birthday too. 🙂

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      July 14th? I must ask… has anyone ever given you a guillotine to cut your Bastille Day cake?

      • Norah

        ????

    • Norah

      Thanks for picking me up on that Doug. It must be my Irish heritage – to be sure, to be sure. ???? Fixed now.
      One of my brothers has a July 14 birthday to match yours. He hasn’t been to Paris.

      • Doug Jacquier

        I knew we had a connection. He must be a fine person. 🙂

      • Norah

        ????

      • Doug Jacquier

        Thanks, Anne. It’s up there with ‘big tall giant’, ‘little dwarf’, ‘two twins’, ‘it is what it is’, ‘repeat that again’, ‘duplicate copy’, joint cooperation’ and my particular teeth-grinder ‘new innovation’. And don’t get me started on ‘almost (or very) unique’; something is either unique or it isn’t. 🙂

      • Norah

        Have you signed up for a post yet, Doug? I think you’ve got your topic.

      • Doug Jacquier

        As Manuel was wont to to say, que?

      • Norah

        I use his other line more frequently – ‘I know nothing’. ????

      • Anne Goodwin's Sugar and Snails is free in February

        All those banned in our house but need to patch some holes in the filter that have let free gift through. Mind you, lots of gifts come with strings attached and not just the ribbon on the wrapping.
        PS Do you also use ‘disinterested’ correctly? I love that much maligned word.

      • Norah

        My free gift came without strings. Without wrapping even. Perhaps that’s why I felt the need to add a little tautology. ????
        Disinterested is a fine word. If only I could be bothered to follow up on it.

      • Doug Jacquier

        In my experience it’s the ‘free’ gifts that usually have the strings attached. 😉 And I presume you mean dis-interested in the sense that banks use it to describe your rate of return on your savings account these days.

      • Norah

        No strings with my free gift, Doug. 🙂

      • Norah

        I look forward to the response. 🙂

      • Norah

        🙂

  8. gordon759

    July 2, I wouldn’t use numbers as Americans get confused, for some reason they dont use the obvious day, month, year system for writing dates (Any idea why?).

    As for birthday dates clumping, the great clump is in September. My wife was a maternity nurse and maternity staff always put it down to Christmas and New Year parties (and probably too much ‘drink taken’)

    • pedometergeek

      My son’s birthday is July 2. I think Americans fill it in that way because of the way we say it : July (7), second (2), and then year (whatever). 07/02/0000. Just a thought as I consider why I do what I do.

      • Norah

        It’s funny isn’t it? We say it the other way round. second of July, so 02/07.
        Maybe it’s a bit like water in the drains. Apparently they swirl opposite ways in the two hemispheres. 🙂

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      Just always include the full year and you can’t go wrong.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        er, well, it at least solves half the problem.

      • Norah

        ????

      • Norah

        I’m not quite sure how that solves the day/month confusion.

    • Norah

      Thanks, Gordon. Using the name of the month, rather than the number certainly makes it clear. As for why Americans write the date the other way round, maybe some of them can tell us. I think it’s like their spelling too – they just do it differently.
      That’s an interesting observation about September birthdays. We’ll have to see how many show up in the comments.

  9. Jennie

    Excellent, Norah! These activities are just what children need for math, plus they’re enjoyable.

    • Norah

      Thank you, Jennie. Learning is best when it’s fun and/or purposeful. 🙂

      • Jennie

        Absolutely!????

  10. Jules

    While I never favored math – especially when using numbers and letters in equations… I’ve gotten better with it. I enjoyed the movie “Hidden Figures” about the women ‘computers’ who helped America’s Space Race.

    I cook using recipes as guide lines. But I know with baking you have to be more precise.

    I’m October 30.

    I actually did watch a show about the Birthday Paradox. The math on that is something I couldn’t compute. But just knowing the statistic is interesting.

    We have a few months that pile up with birthdays. A couple of same days – Kind of odd that two in the same family match up with different in-laws.

    I’d love to see how this all turns out. Thanks Norah 🙂

    • pedometergeek

      We have four members in my extended family with the same birthday. My husband, my niece, a brother-in-law, and a cousin all have October 19 as a birthday. ~nan

      • Norah

        It is quite interesting how the same dates turn up in families, isn’t it?

    • Norah

      Thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion, Jules. That’s a great movie about the female computer scientists. I enjoyed it too.
      I agree with what you are saying about baking. One can’t be too far off with ingredient measures.
      It is interesting what’s coming up with birthdays. We have D. and Ritu to thank for this part of the conversation. 🙂

  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    What a fine and important post on numeracy. It seems that it somehow became okay for people to say that math is hard, too hard, just forget about it, leave it to those few who somehow were born with a mathematical ability. Nobody would ever speak that way about literacy, laughing off their inability to read or suggesting their own child could not bother with literacy skills. When I was an elementary teacher I ended up taking on numeracy as my cause because even teachers would often be dismissive of it and not give it the time and attention it warranted in the classroom. I found that when it was integrated and celebrated kids built their understanding and also enjoyed the subject. When math is not an area of stress they can be more flexible in their thinking and apply their skills and understandings further. You are so right about mindset; everyone can do math and as you say are doing math without realizing it.

    • Norah

      It is strange that maths gets so many negative reviews. I think it’s when it gets removed from practicalities and becomes abstract that it loses many of us. I’ve never liked to see children filling in pages and pages of answers to algorithms on worksheets. What a way to turn kids off. If they are using numbers to solve problems or investigate situations, it becomes fascinating. As you say – anyone can do it!

      • Anne Goodwin's Sugar and Snails is free in February

        Yet the abstraction is what I love about maths, especially the fantasy of the square root of minus one that opens up so many possibilites. But that’s a long way off for the kids you’re trying to enthuse.

      • Norah

        It is far off, Anne. I’d like to see someone try to enthuse me about that too. ????

    • Anne Goodwin's Sugar and Snails is free in February

      Good point well made. I wonder if people link mathematical skill with some undesirable personality traits and want to distance themselves.

      PS. Any idea if I got the paradox formula right?

      • Norah

        Anne, I didn’t check step by step, but your formula looked very similar to how I saw it explained on one of the websites. I’m happy to give you full marks. 🙂

  12. Jim Borden

    I love math, so I enjoyed this post. Thanks for describing all the ways that math is helpful. I think everyone should be required to take a course in statistics and probability.

    September 20…

    • Norah

      You don’t happen to teach it do you? 🙂

      • Jim Borden

        I just teach a couple statistical tools, but I do like trying to keep up with all the new analytical tools that are out there….

      • Norah

        Excellent!

  13. pedometergeek

    October 12

    I have always heard that in a group of twenty people or more, there would be duplication of birthdays (same day, maybe different years).

    I loved all your math information. While I don’t have any children home-schooling, I have grandchildren who are learning remotely. I will pass along your information. ~nan

    • Norah

      I was quite surprised by that birthday statistic but I can see how it works.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the post and are happy to share it.
      Thanks, Nan.

  14. pensitivity101

    Always loved maths and figures Norah. Something I’m good at too, so my analytical job was right up my street!
    Birthday May 12th.

    • Norah

      Sounds like you and maths are a perfect match, Di. Thanks for your comment.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Nora.

      • Norah

        🙂

  15. floridaborne

    Never in my life have I heard math referred to as maths. That’s a new one for me.

    Math and I never got along. Numbers don’t have emotions, and he thought my poetry never added up to much.

    It was bad enough that numbers didn’t want to stay still — then there was geometry. I got through that class with a C- and was happy to have that.

    It’s true that we use math in every day life, but I agree with Peggy Sue when she said that she knew for a fact she would never use Algebra again. ????

      • floridaborne

        No, we call it math.
        I call it torture by numbers.

      • Norah

        ???????? Sorry. I’m not laughing at what you describe as your lack of mathematical ability. That’s not funny – but your choice of words is.

      • floridaborne

        I have dyslexia and numbers don’t want to stay still — especially when I’m tired. It’s easier to make fun of the problem than to dwell on it.

      • Norah

        I guess that’s a good way of dealing with it.

      • Norah

        That’s an interesting question, Anne. I wonder.

    • Doug Jacquier

      Anywhere outside the US (and maybe Canada?) it is always maths, possibly because there’s more than one type. 😉 It’s a bit like imperial measurements, which now only apply in the US, Liberia and Myanmar. How did that not get thrown over in the American revolution? Miles per hour only applies in 9% of countries but that does include both the US and the recalcitrant English. Oh, and the US has its own version of the gallon. Still, bonus points on deciding on a hundred cents in the dollar. 🙂

      • floridaborne

        LOL! I’ve been to Canada twice, traveled by bus and train around Morocco, then visited Gibraltar and a nearby town in Spain. I was in Switzerland, France and most of the US states and hadn’t heard “maths.” Math is not something most people talk with tourists about. ????

      • Norah

        I think you’re right. Most people avoid talking about maths, they just use it. You must have used it a lot in currency exchange and making purchases, not to mention scheduling your travel arrangements. 🙂

      • Norah

        vive la différence – as if the differences with English weren’t enough to cope with. 🙂

      • Doug Jacquier

        Bugger the difference when one side of the difference assumes it’s right to dictate to the rest. 🙂

      • Norah

        ????????

    • Norah

      It’s funny what we get used to. I always think ‘math’ sounds incomplete. Maths is short for mathematics and refers to all the different strands of maths, not just numbers. It seems that there are different ways of doing things around the world. I always find it interesting to explore them though different spellings and styles of punctuation can make a writer’s life difficult.
      I like your pun about poetry not adding up to much. That’s funny. It’s probably not true though, I dare say.
      I hate to tell you that we do use algebra in even our simplest calculations e.g. working out how many slices of bread we need to make sandwiches for lunch. But I know what you mean – all those strings of letters and brackets and numbers we learned in high school that never seemed to make any sense. Unless they did.
      I’m not sure of the Peggy Sue reference?

      • floridaborne

        The movie “Peggy Sue Got Married” is hilarious. She gets to go back in time and change her life if she wants to. It’s one of my favorite movies.

      • Norah

        Sounds like a fun movie. I haven’t seen it. I’m not sure where I would go back to. I wouldn’t want to change too much. It all brought me to where I am. 🙂

      • floridaborne

        I forgot to mention that when I’m writing about a time when people are using only the metric system, I have to go to the feet to meters, or miles to kilometers conversion. Our minds learn to approximate by using one method — and even though meters make more sense, I’ve never been able to estimate a length using the metric system. Same with liters. Thankfully, on some recipe sites, you can get the recipes in cups and teaspoons as well.

      • Norah

        I quite often have to convert too. It’s a good thing there are easy converters on the internet. I started my schooling with imperial. I was a teenager when we changed to the metric system. The metric system is a lot easier to convert since it’s in base ten, but I think it boils down to what you know and feel comfortable with.

      • floridaborne

        In an anthropology class in 1984 (of all years to be in college) we discussed the way in which forest people differed from people who lived on plains. One of the differences surprised me: Visual perspective. Someone from a forest had difficulty trying to determine the distance of an object when there was no forest, and the opposite was true for people without forests.

        That’s what the difference between the US system and metric system seem to me.

  16. suespitulnik

    I’m a bit late to the discussion, but here goes. The states, Ney York anyway, have now incorporated “Corp Math” which leaves everyone in my generation confused and makes it impossible for a 15-year-old to make a monetary change because they no longer memorize the multiplication tables, and adding simple numbers is done only by directing the numbers first. It’s a shame and in my opinion, disgusting. Our school-age children can’t read a clock if it isn’t digital.
    And, we no longer teach cursive. I have to remember to print in my grandchildren’s birthday cards.
    I am a quilter and use math on a daily basis and love it, but I do have to remember to figure amounts that will go into a 42-inch strip, and not the total number of available square inches.
    As a military wife, I learned to write the day/month/year, but yes most Americans write month/day/year as that is the way it is spoken.
    Someone mentioned Americans leaving out letters in certain words. I just finished reading Anne Goodwin’s “Sugan and Snails” (which I enjoyed) and was reminded that Americans speaking English have many differences from Brits speaking English. Two very different languages.
    I’m a Leo – August 6
    Thanks, Norah for a great post and discussion.

    • Norah

      Hi Sue,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s never too late to join in. I think some of the changes you’ve noticed are widespread. I’ve just had a call from my brother whose son is in year 2 (he’s seven). He received an email from the school telling them that they are not going to teach spelling any more and from now on the parents are to read the home readers to the children, not the other way round. Needless to say he’s confused and upset. I find it troubling also. I’m interested to know what they are teaching.
      Quilting is definitely an exercise in mathematics. As well as number, I assume quite a bit of geometry is also in use.
      I think Australian English differs quite a bit from both British and American English – I have to ‘look up’ words and phrases used in each of those locations – but our spellings are aligned with British.
      Thank you for adding your thoughts. 🙂

  17. Sherri Matthews

    What a fascinating post, Norah. I struggled with understanding maths at school (or math, as I got used to calling it when I lived in the States!) but came to understand its importance in life through much more practical means. I worked for the Post Office and had to balance my till weekly. We had a small office calculator, but I found it quicker to do it in my head. I put it down to the one good lesson in maths I got from school, which was to recite the times table at the end of every day. Rote learning comes in useful sometimes! I wonder if you had any overlapping birthdays here? Mine is 10 September. Funny though, in the States, they put the month first, so again, I got used to writing it as 9/10. Here, it is the day first, so 10/9. And as before, even after so long back in England, I still get it muddled up and default to the 9/10. Strange… Great post as always, thank you, Norah 🙂 <3

    • Norah

      Thanks for sharing your mathematical thoughts, Sherri. I agree that those times tables come in handy at times. But the different ways of writing the date can be very confusing. It’s okay when one of the numbers is 13 or more, but lower numbers make it difficult to know for sure. Writing the name of the month always helps, I think.
      I don’t think we’ve had any overlapping birthdays yet. Perhaps I should check. 🙂

      • Sherri Matthews

        I agree, Norah, writing the name of the month saves a lot of confusion! 🙂

      • Norah

        🙂

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