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Ideas for applying maths to real life situations

(26 Posts)
Cat98 Sun 14-Jul-13 08:47:13

Ds is very advanced in maths, particularly numeracy. He really enjoys doing sums and asks me often to 'challenge' him. Some examples of sums he can work out in a minute or so in his head (the ones he did last night before bed!) are- 1000 - 208, 30 x 50, 1150 + 297, also he knows most of his times tables and fractions, can divide most even numbers by 2. He's just finishing reception but is only just 5.

However, I'm aware that schools are moving away from this kind of maths (sums) - the issue I've got is that ds just loves them. So I am looking for ideas of how to challenge him but applying the sums to real life situations (particularly times tables - his teacher put this on his action plan re tables). In a way that will be fun for him, obviously.
His teacher does say that he understands perfectly well what quantities actually mean (he's v good at estimating, for example) so they are not just arbitrary figures to him, but he finds it difficult to explain reasons behind patterns I think. I know that he's doing well and I don't want to push him, it's just that as he enjoys the sums I want to make sure we are doing stuff at home in the 'right' way to support his school learning.
Thank you smile

Quodlibet Sun 14-Jul-13 08:59:26

How about cooking together?
Filling up the car with petrol?
Water play with litre jugs/measuring spoons?

Gannetgob Sun 14-Jul-13 09:03:45

How about going shopping/online shopping and working out how much things would be in a sale? Eg - there's a top for £12, how much would it be if there was 20% off? Can get much harder depending on the price of products/ percentage off.

SoupDragon Sun 14-Jul-13 09:19:37

How about using money? For times tables this would be 3 apples at 5p an apple cost...?

Jinsei Sun 14-Jul-13 23:08:37

DD did some carpentry recently with my dad - very good for showing the importance of accurate measurements of lengths, angles etc.

Anything with money is usually quite motivating too.

SoupDragon Mon 15-Jul-13 08:59:53

How about baking? You could work out the ingredients for a half quantity for example - he'd learn how to halve odd numbers then too.

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 15-Jul-13 09:09:07

Carpentry is a good one. You can work out the amount of wood needed. It can go beyond just simple arithmetics, and in some simple trigonometry. Very simple ideas like if cos/sin with an angle measured. Or pythagoras, using two sides to find the length of a third diagonal side. Painting is another good one where you can work out how many tins of paint you want.

Adding numbers to hours and days is modulo mathematics. So is working in non-metric units. So instead of adding 10+8. Ask them about what day is 23 days from today? Or if you want a loaf of bread done by the breadmaker at 7am tomorrow, how many hours of delay do you need to set now?

Or how about given a list of numbers, come up with different methods to sort it? This lend to algorithms like merge sort, bubble sort etc.

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 15-Jul-13 09:13:00

On the money side, there is loads of things you can play with. On top of the how much change, or 20% discount. How about adding a cashback element to it? Like if you buy something at £100, and have a 20% discount. Quidco gives 3% cashback on the non-VAT bit of the price? (Or even just ignore VAT).

And there is ofc financial aspect like compound interests. You can show him how much savings can grow if you reinvests the interests. (And that leads to the difference between two accounts with daily or yearly interests). The other side of this is ofc mortgage repayment. And early payments.

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 15-Jul-13 09:14:47

BTW, the ones on finances are really good done on a spreadsheet. So you can throw in some computer skills too. HTH!

SoupDragon Mon 15-Jul-13 09:23:18

Personally I disagree that a spreadsheet is a good idea. He's meant to be learning how to deal with numbers by himself and recognise the patterns, not have a spreadsheet do it for him.

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 15-Jul-13 10:16:08

I see using a spreadsheet as a good way to learn about formulating ideas into algorithms. Especially the type of problems that are mathematical. As opposed to more logical ones, like sorting. It's simple 'programming'.

You can still see patterns. Like a formula for compound interests with a certain starting capital. Vary the interest rate, and see the difference in the total in 5, 10 or 25 years time. This type of problem will require a lot of manual calculation to demonstrate a trend. And the point might be lost in all the details.

And it's applying maths to real life problems definitely. Don't we hear many people struggle with simple financial concepts like interests? I am constantly shocked when people asked whether they should be paying off that debt of 5.99% or 2.99% interests first.

SoupDragon Mon 15-Jul-13 12:05:52

He is 5.

cornflakegirl Mon 15-Jul-13 13:11:48

Thoroughly recommend BBC bitesize maths. My maths-obsessed DS would play on it for hours given the choice.

Agree that money is a great one for real arithmetic. And times tables and fractions fit in well to sharing strawberries or cake.

Do you like maths? I quite often will set DS little problems just based on conversations we have, or things we see when we're out.

Cat98 Mon 15-Jul-13 15:06:30

Thanks very much, some really useful ideas here.

I should do more baking with him really, he used to love it - before he started school and we had days to fill we did loads! He's starting to get an understanding of percentages too so shopping would be great. And money too-he loves playing monopoly so is good at working out change when dealing with hundreds of pounds but we could definitely do more with coins, and thats a good idea about using it to work out tables.

He's obsessed with the date and days at the moment and is often looking at my calendar and then saying "in 23 days, x is happening..."! so again I could base more stuff around that.

I do quite enjoy maths problems (though I'm not that good - only GCSE level "B" grade, same as DH, so I don't know where ds gets his talent from!) and we found a brilliant app on the i phone where you have to make totals by fitting negative and positive numbers into a wheel thing, but there's only a set number of each - you can set it to different levels so his is set to a slightly easier one, then I play a harder one and he "helps" me!

iseenodust Mon 15-Jul-13 15:14:46

It's the Ashes so cricket scores. How many more runs do England need? There are 6 overs left so how many runs in each over is the minimum they must get? Or only three batsmen left etc. And then of course the many permutations of football league results and relative position in the table of 'your' team.
DS is 8 aaaagh.

iseenodust Mon 15-Jul-13 15:18:20

When you want peace and quiet there are su doku books for children.

larrygrylls Mon 15-Jul-13 15:32:49

I have no real idea from a professional teaching perspective. However, I do like (and have a decent aptitude for) maths as a subject.

Personally, if his basic arithmetic is already so good, I would concentrate on getting him to see interesting patterns in numbers. So, help him to start multiplying numbers, dividing numbers, then square numbers and square roots. Ask him to solve mini "equations" like 3 plus what equals 10 and, if he finds this easy, maybe show him how he is actually doing the same thing to each side of the equation. Ask him to see the missing number in different kinds of series and see how he gets on.

For me, just doing endless arithmetic will produce a performing monkey, which is great for MENSA and to show off, but won't really develop real mathematical ability. And I would not worry too much about real life applications. I think those are important for those struggling with the concepts, not those who see them easily.


PiqueABoo Tue 16-Jul-13 10:00:21

All the political spin has been about schools doing more sums e.g. it was timetables up to 10x but the new curriculum from Sep 2014 wants up to 12x etc. Some schools around here have displaced time for other subjects by added 20 mins a day rote learning "number facts" in addition to the usual Numeracy timetable slots.

We had plenty of ad-hoc fun & games with DD's numeracy but given that she was good at it I didn't see much point putting serious effort into making her better. What is the child like in other areas? Would any of those benefit more?

cornflakegirl Tue 16-Jul-13 10:42:32

I agree with larry that being good at arithmetic is not the same as being good at maths, although being well grounded in arithmetic is a solid basis for all the rest. Plus I think it's fine to encourage them in the stuff they really enjoy doing!

Usborne do a great book called the Junior Illustrated Maths Dictionary. It has really clear explanations of lots of maths concepts, so it might give you some ideas of things you could explore together. (I've just looked on Amazon and seen that they do a First Illustrated Maths Dictionary too, aimed as KS1 - I've not seen that one, but Usborne are normally v good for this sort of thing).

Another good resource is a website called nrich, which has maths explorations. Problems like these build logical thinking and problem solving skills, and tend to stretch children sideways rather than just storming through the curriculum.

Board games are really good too. Blokus and Quirkle are about shape, pattern and logical thinking, and are also lots of fun and accessible from a young age. (And Quirkle involves scoring, so more fun arithmetic!)

cornflakegirl Tue 16-Jul-13 10:54:48

PiqueABoo - why shouldn't the OP encourage her son's love of and talent for maths? There's nothing in what she has written to suggest she is hothousing him or focusing on maths to the detriment of other areas.

DS2 likes maths, and we have ad-hoc fun and games with numeracy. DS1 loves maths (as do I), so we do a lot more of it.

OneLittleToddleTerror Tue 16-Jul-13 11:14:17

cornflakegirl that usborne book is really interesting! My DD is only 2yo but I've bookmarked it for when she's in KS1 grin.

What piqueaboo is objecting to is the stupidity of the curiculumn to do timetables to 12. And the fact that mathematics is not arithmetics. But you are also right in mentioning the need to logical thinking and problem solving skills. (I'm an engineer so I'm quite passionate about getting children to love maths and science. We have too many of our youths dismissing them as too geeky and being irrelevant).

cornflakegirl Tue 16-Jul-13 13:46:06

One - it is really cool. I found it on a Book People stall when DS was still a bit young for it and couldn't resist. I think the science version is also really good.

(It was the second part of PiqueABoo's comment that I was disagreeing with - dismissing putting "serious effort" into improving maths, and focusing on other weaker areas instead. I think it's just as valid to encourage a love of maths as it is a love of football or drawing.)

PiqueABoo Tue 16-Jul-13 15:43:48

cornflakegirl Too sensitive. It's not a criticism or a diktat, merely a different perspective.

Perhaps it's the nature of my child, but she's an example who has turned out very well with very little explicit school-stuff at home besides the homework. Well except the reading (you can never have enough).

cornflakegirl Tue 16-Jul-13 15:57:57

Pique - I just don't consider maths to be "school stuff"! I agree with you, if a child is doing well at school and enjoying learning, it's not necessary to push it at home. But maths is something that the OP's DS wants to do for his own enjoyment, and the OP wants ideas for how to do this with him in a way that supports his learning.

Genuine question - if the OP had asked for advice on how to support her son who was talented at and enjoys football, would you have suggested that being good at it is enough and to focus on other areas?

PiqueABoo Wed 17-Jul-13 10:50:52


On my planet one of a 1001 potentially correct answers to the question "What's the best way to support X" is sometimes "Do little or nothing". I'm not claiming that is correct answer for any scenario I know nothing about, but it was the correct one for my DD re. maths and it's worth mentioning.

Football: I'd ask about areas before suggesting some kid throw their life into that.

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