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Maths is Everywhere

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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


109 Comments

  1. petespringerauthor says:

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

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norah says:

      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. 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ellenbest24 says:

    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

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Chel Owens says:

    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. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ellenbest24 says:

    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.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 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.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

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

        Liked by 1 person

      • ellenbest24 says:

        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.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Norah says:

        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.

        Like

      • 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.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        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.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Norah says:

      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.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ellenbest24 says:

        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.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        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. 🙂

        Like

  5. 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?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norah says:

      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. 😂)

      Liked by 2 people

  6. LucciaGray says:

    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!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norah says:

      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.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. 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. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  8. gordon759 says:

    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’)

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Jennie says:

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

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jules says:

    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 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • 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

      Liked by 2 people

    • Norah says:

      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. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  11. 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.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Jim Borden says:

    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…

    Liked by 2 people

  13. 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

    Liked by 2 people

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

    Liked by 1 person

  15. floridaborne says:

    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. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Maths is short for mathematics. Do Americans use the singular for the longer version? Maths works for me in the plural, as there are so many branches.

      Liked by 3 people

    • 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. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Norah says:

      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?

      Like

      • floridaborne says:

        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.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        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. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • floridaborne says:

        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.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        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.

        Liked by 1 person

      • floridaborne says:

        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.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. suespitulnik says:

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norah says:

      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. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. 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 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norah says:

      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. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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