Saturday, 21 July 2012

Maths in everyday life

I'm not intending to sit the boys down and teach them any Maths, not unless they show a particular interest in doing that. I see Maths absolutely everywhere in our everyday lives, and I think the boys will pick it up naturally in a way that makes most sense to them. We talk about numbers and mathematical concepts all the time as a natural part of our conversation too, so I'm confident that the boys will get plenty of opportunity to explore maths in their own way.

Joseph often demonstrates his growing understanding of and uses for maths. We were going to the beach with some friends recently and stopped at the shop to get some goodies to take with us to share with them. Joseph found a packet of 4 cakes that he liked the look of, so we counted up how many children would be there and realised there would be 5. Joseph said "That's ok, we can get two packets!"

On another occasion we were walking home from nursery and he was hungry. We popped into a shop for a snack and he ran off and chose a small packet of popcorn. I told him that we had better get some for his brothers too, so he ran off again and came back with three packets. If I were to sit him down and say "Joseph if you had 1 bag of popcorn and your brothers also wanted a bag each, how many more bags would you need to go and get?" I'm fairly sure he'd be confused! In an everyday context though, he can solve this without a thought! Last weekend he went to watch beach volleyball with my parents and we were chatting about it at bedtime. He told me "There were two ladies on that side of the net, and two ladies on the other side of the net....that makes four!" What's great is that when he makes these connections and solves these problems he is doing this for himself and he knows it, that must be empowering! Joseph writes a capital H at the end of his name and his nursery teacher asked him who taught him to do it like this (writing in capitals is not considered a good thing). He told her "I taught myself". He knows he can learn for himself, I don't want him to lose this confidence. I think he learned the capital H from copying a sign of his name he has in his bedroom which is all in capitals. I feel no need to correct him; he knows that other people write the h at the end his name differently, and at some point I'm sure he'll adjust it. Teaching Joseph to write 'properly' is less important to me than preserving his confidence to have a go, and to enjoy putting pen to paper.

...Back to Maths! Joseph is interested in the size of things and often compares the size of objects. When we have dinner he likes me to serve up the drinks for he and his brothers in three different sized cups so that he can measure them against one another and distribute them according to size; he always gets the biggest, Callum the middle sized and Charlie the smallest, because that is how the boys themselves are sized...for now! At the moment the 'biggest' means the tallest to Joseph, but I'm sure that will change as his understanding of objects develops; he's already starting to compare the size of bowls by looking to see which has the biggest base! I think his understanding of size and volume etc will come from playing with objects, filling up pots and cups in the bath or at the water table for example, and seeing that the tallest vessel is not always the one that holds the most water. I believe that if I attempt to 'teach' him this before he's ready, I'll probably make it sound more complicated than it is and deny him the opportunity to discover it for himself!

Joseph is fascinated by really tall things and often stands by lamp or sign posts or church spires, looking up at them and talking about the height of them in relation to himself.

I have to admit it was a bit strange at first to see Joseph hugging lamp posts in the street and gazing up at the top of them, but then I realised what perfect sense it makes for him to gather information about the world in relation to himself! He doesn't know what a metre is, but he gathers a lot of information about the height of a lamp post by exploring its size in relation to him. In this way, I also expect he is taking in information about the structure of things, and the patterns they make. When we go to the supermarket Joseph likes to look through the lines of stacked trolleys, and seems interested in the repetitive pattern. He has been asking for a while to go on the London Eye and loves watching videos of the Shard being built on YouTube so last week we took all the boys for a day trip to London. What a sense of perspective it gives to look out from the top of something so tall, look down at the world you have left behind and observe how different everything looks!

What a great way to learn this stuff! A while back I looked at some Maths resources for reception and Year 1 students on line, just out of interest. It included worksheets with pictures such as a drawing of two brooms next to one another, and a question asking the child to indicate which is longest. I won't bother looking again, I'll leave Joseph to continue exploring real objects in an everyday context in relation to himself. It seems to be working for him, and far more importantly in my mind, he's enjoying it!


  1. ...and today we were in the garden and the boys were playing with long tubes of foam 'sword fighting'. I asked Joseph how many there were and he counted "Six...there are two for each of us". Learning all the time!

  2. Maths is all around us ,when I was at school I was made to sit seperate from the other children and not given any help ,because of this was made to feel useless.its far better to do practical maths in everyday situations and naturally apply it.