When it comes time to divvy up the dinner bill, I nervously avoid eye contact with it, saying, “I suck at maths. That’s why I became a writer! [laughs awkwardly, prays I don’t have to do division].”
First, we must realise even if we don’t consider ourselves “maths people,” we’re engaging with maths all the time—while we listen to music or bake cookies or rattle off baseball stats or organise our shoe closets. Second, to raise kids who love maths, we should use ordinary moments to talk about maths.
This doesn’t mean reciting multiplication tables at Target—instead, it’s about using descriptive maths language as children notice the details of the world. “Look, when you add more blocks, your line gets longer.” “Why doesn’t your book fit on the shelf? Oh, it’s too tall?” “Let’s sing the song faster.” That, I can do.
There are some great resources to help you “talk maths” with your kids, including Bedtime Maths, Table Talk Maths and Talking Maths With Your Kids (check out the Twitter hashtag #tmwyk in which parents share real-life examples of how they’ve worked maths into everyday conversations).
Here are some prompts to help get you started:
While grocery shopping: “Can you help me pick out a cereal that’s less than three dollars?”
In an elevator: “How many floors are lit up? How much longer will it take us to reach the first floor?” (Bedtime Maths)
During a snuggle: “Let’s make a ‘love pattern’—kiss, snuggle hug, kiss, snuggle, hug.” (@amanda_renard)
While ordering pizza: “How can we cut this so that all six of us get a slice?”
In a kiddie pool: “How many more friends do you think can fit inside?”
While preparing breakfast: “How many bagel halves do we have?”
On a drive: “If a licence plate has three letters and four numbers, does it have more letters or numbers?” (Bedtime Maths)
While cooking: “Can you sort the veggies by size?”
While getting gas: Make a game out of who can most accurately estimate how much the gas will cost. (@KatieBreedlove)
When sharing a blanket: “Hey, you have 3/4 and I only have 1/4. Give me a quarter more.”
While getting ready for school: “It takes us 15 minutes to get there. What time do we have to leave?”
During craft time: “How much material do we need?”
While grilling: “How many times will we have to flip the patties if we’re making five burgers?”