Thursday, March 08, 2012

Maths 'round here.

So, ignoring my greys hairs that I ripped out yesterday for a bit...I'm joining in the ever-inspiring Stephanie's blog-linky thing on Unschooling Tools for her Maths Play post. I missed the Games one...(might get back to that after a bit).

First of all, before we get started, I want to know why Americans call mathematics "math" and Australians call it "maths". Just one of the mire of thoughts swirling through my head....

Anyway. A bit of background - because everyone carries maths baggage with them and whether they know it or not, pass those vibes onto their kids. I was always really good at maths at school. I would actually go so far as to say I liked it. I used to get A's, 90% and above...until 3 Unit Maths in Year 11. In Australia we don't have Arithmetic, and Pre-Algebra, and Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus like they do in the U.S. We kind of bundle them all up and intertwine them all the way through school. 3 Unit Maths was the next-highest maths course you could not. Not the brainiac one, but not the dumbo one either.

Up to then, I found maths really easy. I would read the chapter intro, look at the demo questions and "get" it before the teacher had finished calling the roll. I never learnt how to "learn" stuff or ask questions when I needed to or "study". I didn't spend the time practising and learning the way I should. And I didn't for first year University math either. I just scraped through with low passes, which thankfully was enough - but I was never going to go onto be a mind-blowing physicist or mathematician. I think I did miss out on some maths "skills" along the way, though.

Now Wombat Girl, she LOVES maths in a way I never really did. She has done since she was little. Puzzles, patterns, problem solving, counting chair legs by 4s, estimates, measures, questions...she naturally has all the maths skills. Video Boy might not claim to love maths as much - in fact, he doesn't think he's very good at it (maybe comparing himself to his sister), but he has a maths instinct too - he definitely can see his way around a problem in a very instinctive way. He really struggles to "show his working" though...

We do maths the "traditional" way - questions from the text book. But we do them quickly because the kids, pick up those concepts quickly - way quicker than what they were offering at school. I loved Stephanie's reference to the article by David Albert (I love his homeschooling books!) who says we can learn K-12 maths in eight intensive weeks! I don't doubt it. Wombat Girl has moved onto Year 10 Algebra quite easily doing only one or two sessions a week.

But we also do "unschooling" maths. Maths that flows because we love it and can't help it. Maths that sneakily invades other parts of living and maths they we just chase because it looked so interesting, much like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

Number and Algebra:
Harry Potter currency using Prime Numbers!

Magic squares

The Joy of Algebra DVD (Fibonacci magic!)

Working out binary numbers

Measurement and Geometry:


Describing dimensions

Demonstrating pythagorus

Measuring solids

Measuring liquids

Measuring length

Measuring length (making birthday cards)
Model of Klein bottl

Klein bottle

Measuring temperature

Types of triangles (and counting money)

Isoceles triangle

3 dimensional shapes

Creating "Flatland"

Experimenting with symmetry!

Measuring energy
Estimating water usage rates

Statistics and probability:

Venn diagram - data representation

Card games - probability

Interpreting data from a table
Recording data

Representing linear equations graphically
Problem solving, reasoning and understanding:

Marble run


Number crossing puzzle from CSIRO Maths & Stats



River crossing

Studying chess...

...playing chess



Making sundials
Maths books:

Life of Fred

Card games

Maths in movies:


Donald Duck in Mathemagic Land

Yep! We love our maths 'round here!!


  1. You have inspired me to try a little harder to instill a love of math (American!) in my boys. I conquered math quickly until I reached 9th grade and they put me in a hideous 'improved' program called Progressive Math. After that, my belief that I was good at it flew out the door and I was never the same. Your pictures make me excited to get more hands-on and learn to love it again! I love new goals! Thank you. :-)

    1. There is so much "fun" maths to be had! You do need a positive attitude - but if you look at it as "exploring" maths with your kids, I think you go a long way!

  2. That symmetry pic made me smile... we played with it years ago, but haven't lately. :)
    Lots of cool stuff! Thanks so much for adding so many more interesting things!

    1. Gotta have fun with your symmetry! I was amazed at how much good stuff we've done in the last year - a nice way to show the inspectors that we are not just fluffing about!

  3. Re math vs. maths... I suppose for us Americans, it evolved as an abbreviation. Math is short for mathematics. However, since "mathematics" is a plural word, "maths" makes sense because it, too, is plural, and of course, there are myriad forms of mathematics (as your post shows!)... And as for me, with lots of British family members and having lived in Britain, I like both ways of saying it! My lovely British auntie has a degree in Maths, and she's an engineer... I sure wish I would have inherited more of her "Maths" genes!

    1. Tomato - to-mah-to! I don't think the maths itself varies! There are definitely "maths" genes - but everyone can use and even appreciate maths.

  4. Math is just easier to say.

    I bet Wombat Girl is good at sudoku.

    1. That s makes a big difference :-) And yes, she is!

  5. I've been in Oz for 11 years and 'maths' still sounds odd when I say it lol. It's so funny how people say I'll never need all this math in my life... we should just direct them to your post! The world is FULL of maths... I loved maths in school too :D

    1. Sooo much good, fun maths! And have a look at the other posts on Stephanie's page too - makes me want to go do more!

  6. What a great post!

    I understand exactly what you mean about having a love for math. I post a lot about Sky not liking math but my husband and 6 year old LOVE it! My little one will sit and finish a whole math workbook in one setting. One year she asked for math workbooks for her birthday and even will want to buy them with her own money :).

    My husband *loves* chess and yet has found anyone who can beat him, though Little Sis has caught on very quickly and I think he will have a challenger soon.

    This is why I love unschooling it meets the needs of *every* child.

    Ps: I bookmark many of your links to have on hand cause I know it's only a matter of time :).

    1. We all have passions for different things. It makes us unique. But I also think we can pass on our (unintentional) views. But there is much to like about maths.

      I reluctantly play chess with Wombat Girl, because she always beats me! Hubby is better than me, because he concentrates better :-)

  7. Hi Ingi
    Where do those work sheets come from? They look good!
    How are you finding Fred?
    We have shelved him for a bit and are using EPGY for both girls.
    Great post!

    1. I have PDFs of the Maths Quest textbooks. I print out some pages and copy select questions into their exercise books. Maybe email me and I'll see what we can do :-)

      The kids read Fred cover to cover, but we haven't done much/any of the actual questions (like he says to). I'm concerned about going too packaged/online - I like going at our own pace with our own material.

  8. Thanks for all these great ideas, and for reminding me we can do Fred without doing Your Turn To Play. Even though we ditched curriculum ages ago, I still felt bad about skipping the questions in Fred when my son asked me to read it to him. (So many layers of schooling to let go of ...)

    1. There is value in just reading Fred - we use it as a backup. If it was all you used, sure, do the questions, but if it's just a part of your maths, then use it how you like! Thanks for stopping by!


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