Everyday Life Math

Math permeates everyday life. It’s a bit cliché to say that, but nonetheless it’s true. It also means that parents can do wonders for a kids’ math education – there are things moms and dads can do that teachers cannot match.

The trick, for mom or dad, is to notice when math pops up in everyday life, and involve our kids in it. Let me give some examples.

  • Redecorating? Whether you are redesigning your patio, replacing the carpet or painting a wall, you’ll need to do a bit of geometry. Involve the kids. Get them to hold the tape measure and read out the figure. Ask them to check your work, while you work out areas and perimeters of your living space. Or ask them to help you work it out, and you check.
  • Shopping? Let the kids work out how much change you should get, or ask the kids to check if the change is correct.
  • Cooking? This blogger talks about a mom who taught her kids fractions through recipes. Suppose the recipe says 2/3 of a cup of cornflour and serves 4, but you have 6 coming for dinner… you reach for pencil and paper, of course (or a fractions calculator), but why not also ask your kids to come and help?
  • Tax time? Get your kids to work out how much tax you should be paying on your income – or how much before-tax income you need before you have $x to spend each month.

There are certainly other possibilities. To paraphrase Dr Seuss : “You use it here, and use it there, math is used ‘most everywhere”

The key is to not only use it, but talk to kids about it while you do.

Language experts tell us that with infants and toddlers – kids learning to speak – we should not just say “that’s a tree”, but “that’s a tree. See it’s trunk, and branches, and leaves. Look! Most of the leaves are green, but some are turning brown!” The child will gain a much richer vocabulary faster by being exposed to more of the hidden speech inside the parent’s mind.

Surely, the same is true with math. Not just “Look at all these leaves! It will take forever to sweep them up!” but “Look at all these leaves! I wonder how many there are? How could we work that out? It took me 5 minutes to sweep up this patch – how long do you think it will take to sweep the whole yard?”

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