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.