I often go looking for real life maths resources to strew under the noses of my girls. Yes, I like to tempt them with different maths experiences, hoping they’ll think, “Wow! Maths is so interesting, and useful as well!”
Real life maths resources… I have nothing against the ‘real life’ bit. No, I’m sure children learn maths from their own real life experiences all the time. If they have a need for maths, they will soon learn how to manipulate those numbers and come up with the necessary answer. The maths is relevant. It has a use. There’s a reason for working out what maths is all about.
It’s the ‘resources’ bit I have trouble with. Real life resources are different from personal real life experiences.
We provide teachers
and students with mathematics relevant to the world.
This doesn’t mean I don’t like the Yummy Maths site and other similar resources. I do think they are interesting, and so do my girls. We’ve enjoyed discovering how other people use maths in the world.
Someone has to calculate how much waste is produced by a cruise ship of tourists.
Someone else has to keep an eye on the profits produced by the various movies. Which studio is more successful and why?
Then there’s the people who are tracking the ebola virus. They need to look at the mathematical figures to become informed about the risks, the likely causes, and the possible solutions to this medical emergency.
And what about Mardi Gras beads? How many beads are distributed each year? How many are recycled? Someone works out these problems.
Yes, real life maths is fascinating. We’ve really enjoyed discovering what other people are using maths for. The Yummy Math site sometimes has videos and other links which we can use if we want to find out more. And so maths leads us on other adventures.
We found out that the environment might or might not be at risk from cruise ship waste, depending on whether you consult an environmentalist or a cruise ship owner.
We looked at the Rotten Tomato ratings and discovered a few movies which might be worth watching, and a lot that are probably not worth bothering with.
We decided we are safe from the ebola virus, but learnt a lot about how it’s transmitted.
And we agreed we’d like to see a Mardi Gras parade one day, (not the one associated with Sydney), and wear strings of beads.
The bit I don’t like about Yummy Math is the worksheets, the mathematical exercises which accompany the interesting stuff. They are really no different from traditional worksheets. They are just based on real life situations.
Now it might be interesting working out how someone determined the volume of waste on a cruise ship. But when I see a whole page of similar problems, my heart sinks. This isn’t real work. We’re just working out something that someone else has already done, to see if we can get the same answers. I’m guessing if my heart sinks at the thought of doing this, so will my child’s.
So do I think real life maths resources aren’t useful? Not at all. We dip into these resources all the time. We use what we like, and ignore what we don’t.
Of course, if your children are learning maths in a more structured way, you might find Yummy Math,and similar sites, a wonderful alternative to traditional textbooks and workbooks. Relevant real life problems are always more interesting than made up ones.
And there is no doubt some children enjoy the challenge of working out maths problems. Even Sophie sometimes feels like doing this. But not all the time. And not if it is ‘required’.
Here’s some of the maths resources we dip into now and then:
Math by Design
I’m sure there are many other resources. If you have any favourites I haven’t mentioned, please stop by and share!
my Stories of an Unschooling Family Facebook page,
Please feel welcome to stop by!