Maths in everyday life

Maths in everyday life

A few thoughts on the teaching of Maths

Your memories of Maths at school may well include standing in front of the class reciting times tables. Mine certainly do. When teaching Maths, that is the last thing I want to do. At Cargilfield, our aim is to develop and embed a fluency, creating a deeper knowledge and understanding of underlying mathematical concepts.

Maths is not simply about the classroom or times tables – it is immersed in our daily lives. And whatever your thoughts on the subject, everyone has the ability to harness it in one way or another. There is a common misconception that you are either “good” or “bad” at Maths, but Mathematics is entirely logical: there is no mysterious magic or trickery involved. I so often hear “well I was no good at Maths at school”. Funnily enough, I wasn’t confident in Maths until the age of 12, when it all clicked into place. I went on to study Maths in my later years at school and now I have a strong passion for teaching the subject!

Even though most of us rely on technology these days to do a calculation, you still need to be able to choose the correct operation (multiply, divide, add or subtract) to tackle the problem at hand, and mental arithmetic is still a constant in daily life. For example, working out a 20% discount. Your brain follows a process: 20% is the same as one-fifth, so you divide by 5, then subtract your answer from the original price. Others might divide by 10 then multiply by 2 to work out the saving. Without being conscious of it, you are using Maths. In fact, your first thought of the day may well be a mathematical one when you open your eyes and look at your alarm clock.

What might be second nature to you is an entirely new way of thinking for your child. However, with the right mindset, access to different ways of learning and the opportunity to make mistakes, anything is possible. My favourite quote is by Albert Einstein: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Making mistakes is part of the learning process in Maths. This is an important lesson to teach children as they work through problems and more challenging questions. This skill can also be applied throughout life. How dull would life be if we never pushed ourselves for fear of failure?

I was very surprised to hear from the Form 7 and 8 STEM workshop that by 2022 it’s expected that the UK will be short of 2 million engineers. This type of job requires a wide set of skills, one of which is Maths. If every child realises they can use Maths in their daily lives and understand that it is not only for the classroom, then we will be helping future generations open up new opportunities when they become adults.

Which is why, when explaining new Maths concepts to the children, I like to take a leaf out of American mathematician Stan Gudder’s book: “The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple.”


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Cargilfield where everyday is an adventure

Welcome to Cargilfield! We hope this short film gives you a glimpse of what life is like for the girls and boys at our school. We would love to welcome you in person to tour Cargilfield and explain more fully exactly what makes a Cargilfield education so special and so different. Please get in touch with Fiona Craig, our Registrar if you would like to find out more; her email address is [email protected] or you can telephone her on 0131 336 2207.

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