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Oh those fractions...and other mathematical problems

Updated on October 11, 2016

Fractions - oh the confusion

My sons are in their second season of rugby. A sport I am slowly beginning to understand or so I pretend each week. I try not to ask too many questions so I don't get too many funny looks. I now know that they can only pass backwards, last week I discovered that until you touch the ball down you can keep running behind the posts and then place the ball.

I don't really enjoy watching rugby because there are times when I am just waiting for my sons to stand up after a tackle or a maul. They enjoy rugby and I was quite a proud mum at the end of last season, when my eldest son was awarded "Coaches player of the season". This was after just one season playing for the U13.

The thing that I do enjoy the most, as I stand on the touch line each week is listening to the players as they discuss the sections of the match. This week one of the subs declared "There's three halves, each 15 minutes long" Two weeks ago they were playing four halves. I stand and ponder their statements. When I asked my own son this week how many sections they were playing in, his response was "mum, please don't even ask..."

I understand the statements, I know that they mean that after each break (you know the point when someone runs on with the water bottles that no one drinks from) they change ends or halves. But, mathematically their statements are incorrect.

oh those fractions again

A friend posted on Facebook last week that she was glad to have her son home after a week away with sixth form. She would be able to cook the correct sized portions at meal time again!

I understood the problem immediately, there are four of them in the family. A weekly shop for four is something she is accustomed to. But, a weekly shop for three well that's a different scenario. Both children regularly go away on scout camp, cooking for two is easy, you half your normal shop. But, finding three quarters of your normal shop - a whole different thought process.

counting, another problem

It's rare that my husband and I would frequent a fast food joint (typing this I have just realised fast and fats are both connected...since we almost frequented a fats food joint - the same thing?) But, our eldest son was at a scouting activity which meant we didn't really have time to go home and come back again. We went food shopping and then realised we still had 45 minutes to kill and it was 20:45, our only option was the fast/fats food joint next door.

Two teas and a muffin were ordered. We then stood for a few minutes wondering where the milk I've said we don't visit often. We asked at the counter and we were asked "How many milks would you like?" my reply was "4, please?!"

We sat down to drink our tea and couldn't understand why despite being asked we had been given 5 sachets of milk. We'd asked for four, we got five. This was fine except how would we share them between the two teas? And did this not mean that it was more likely that there would be a wasted sachet of milk...?

counting in another language

My husband and I have recently begun a conversational Spanish course. Whilst in Barcelona over the summer, waiters were apologising for their poor English. We were embarrassed - their English was far better than our Spanish will ever be. But, we decided that a conversational Spanish course would help.

We can now ask some questions and answer them accordingly - "what's your name?", "where do you live?" and also how to spell and count.

Last week we did Maths in our Spanish lesson. Menus - subtract, Mas - add. A few sequences, what comes before and after these values and then...the teacher announces that he finds it difficult to count beyond 50 in English and his brain switches to Spanish. He doesn't think you can do Maths or teach Maths in a different language...

This came as quite a surprise to me - especially since I have a friend from Madrid who is qualified to teach Maths in the UK!

So what is a reindeer?

Misconceptions or miscommunication?

I don't really think that these situations really show that people have a poor understanding of maths but I do think it shows how people struggle with explaining their mathematical processes. The picture above shows an innocent misconception but I think quite an important message.

If as parents we struggle to communicate mathematically with our children then they are going to struggle to explain their mathematical understanding.

I have written before about my belief that discussing maths at home is important. A rugby match can have more then two halves...? Surely a misconception to address?


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    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      4 years ago from California Gold Country

      My husband speaks perfect (American) English, having lived here for more than 60 years. No one would suspect he wasn't born here, but when it comes to "maths" (or math as we say) he usually reverts to his first language.

      I enjoyed your hub.


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