It’s not just the numbers – Mathematics in our daily life

Embracing Mathematics, says the inspirational Australian Mathematics teacher extraordinaire Eddie Woo (on his famous wootube YouTube channel and website) is a “way to help us understand the world in a deeper and richer way…..that Mathematics is a deeply human thing…… and that Mathematics has the power to help people see and appreciate things around them that would be invisible otherwise.”

Mathematics is another form of communication, not to be seen as separate but embedded in our lives. As anyone who has ever tried to buy a product from someone who does not speak your language knows, the language of mathematics is a common language.
Hands up who has used sign language for this!
Maths is one of those subjects that may have caused delight or angst according to your own early years and school experience but it is actually one of the most integral areas of learning in our and our children’s lives. It is creative and imaginative.
So let’s look at the how, when, where and why.
If we look at a normal day for our children we can see how maths is so important and imbedded in their thinking and communication and yet so often hidden in their basic activities.
When your child wakes up in the morning there is time to consider……it must be early ….or late! The sun may or may not be up….how long before it is time to get up? Is it a long or short time? Depending on your child’s age they may calculate how many minutes remaining before it really is time to get up or how much longer they can stay snuggled under the doona and therefore what is the remainder of time they have to rush to the bus stop!
Then there is breakfast to eat……..where are the bowls (spatial organisation)? How many Weetbix will fit in this bowl (estimating), How much milk do I need? How much milk is left in the container?  Will it be enough for someone else? Pouring a glass of water (measuring)?
When getting dressed……. Where are the clothes? Under or over something else? Are there a pair of socks to find (matching?) What goes on first, second, third, last (sequencing)?
Going to school ……how many steps to the front door, the gate, the car, the bus stop (counting)? How long will it take (time)?  How heavy is the school bag (weight)?  Is it heavier than the dog (compare and reason)? Will a lunch box fit in (predicting and estimating)? What shape is it?
On the trip to school …..How many red cars are on the road or in the carpark (identifying, numbering, classifying)? How may trucks, cars, motorbikes, and bikes? Are there more cars than trucks? Less bikes than motorbikes?
So much language , so much Maths even before they set foot inside the school gate.

Let’s look at another area of Maths communication . In this increasingly cash less society – hastened by the recent global pandemic, children do not have the hands on physical experience of money – coins and notes. However they are exposed to more transactions digitally. Numbers and processes that encourage thinking and reasoning, problem solving and applications. Navigating around a device requires not only fine motor control but attention and knowledge, awareness of steps to an outcome, sequencing , preparation and prediction.  Luckily however, doing a supermarket shop with you or purchasing simple items remains a simple and perfect maths experience.
When you write a shopping list, how many items are on it? Where are the items located in the supermarket? Which aisle (organisation)?  What items are in the same category? (dairy? meats? vegetables? fruit? condiments, spices?  How do you get to aisle 8 (navigating)? Is this trolley big enough for our shopping? Do we need a bigger or smaller trolley?
Mathematics is creative, exciting and challenging, it is patterns and shapes, and it is choices and opportunities. Now that we are allowed out again why not try some maths games on your next car trip?

When you listen to a Mathematics communicator like Eddie Woo you can’t help but to be inspired.
Mary Digges
MDR Education
Early Childhood Consultant for Angsana Education
Mary Digges is an early childhood teacher, lecturer, trainer, assessor and consultant in education and has long promoted bilingual and multilingual education. Mary has worked in Australia, Singapore and China.
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