Lab News

  • Math: A Fun Part of Your Everyday Life

    March 19, 2013

    Math: A Fun Part of Your Everyday Life
    by Maria Lando, TheMathMom.com

    Maria Lando

    Math. What is it good for? Do we really use it in our daily life?  

    Well, maybe a bit in cooking. It is all about proportions, right? You over-salted the soup and now need to increase the other ingredients proportionally. Your cake recipe asks for 2 and 1/2 cup of flour, do you have enough in this half-empty 5-pound bag?

    Perhaps, also in shopping. Math can tell you whether an additional 30% off after 50% off is the same as 80% off (it is not). Without thinking about it, you play with math weekly when deciding how far you’d be willing to drive for your food shopping, and how much to buy.

    As a parent, you are an expert at optimizing carpool routes. You know how to detect a pattern of lies, colds, or lice. You rely on math to decide whether you can afford to return to work after having another child.

    At home you know very well that a mattress must be tilted if it doesn't fit in a door entrance. You observe that a corner of your living room remains empty most of the time, and decide to place a home office there.

    Through the course of these everyday actions, we’ve used algebra, geometry, optimization, pattern analysis, logic, and statistics. We all are much better at math than we think.  We bounce math ideas in our head everywhere we go and with whatever we do: cooking, shopping, driving, home decorating, traveling, and parenting.
    Math is a great tool, advisor, and toy to enjoy and share with your kids.


    Play a game and ask your kids to imagine a brunch with math gone awry: two guests are standing because someone miscalculated the number of chairs; giant over-salted pancakes are served in small dessert plates; meanwhile maple syrup is presented in a soup bowl with a fork.

    During a car ride, math can help you stay sane and avoid the "are we there yet?" questions. Let's look for a pattern of all odd numbers in car license plates. What do you think is the most popular car color? Least popular? Counting is a thrill for preschoolers. Count all the traffic lights on the way. See whether you can spot more gas stations on the right or on the left.

    Math is all about patterns — shapes, colors, sizes. Order. This means that math is your best helper at clean-up time. Who can bring the most toys back to the toy basket? Who can group all the Legos by color? What do you think is the best way to fit all these blocks / Dominos back into the box?

    Need more ideas? PBS KIDS has made it so easy to integrate math into our everyday lives with the new PBS Parents Play & Learn app for iOS and Android. The app provides more than a dozen math and literacy-based games parents can play with their kids, each themed around a familiar location. So next time you’re at the grocery store, restaurant or, at home, you can teach your child math skills like counting, measurement and estimation.

    Fun, simple and useful math is everywhere around us helping to optimize and simplify our lives. All we need to do is notice, enjoy, sometimes apply it on purpose, and always present it to our kids as a toy, a tool and a friend.