Monday Maths: Getting Excited About Numbers

I admit it.  I was one of those people at school.  You know, the ones who enjoyed maths, and actually did extra homework just for fun.  I liked my maths teacher.  Now I’m all grown up and I still do maths, although these days it tends to be more spreadsheet-based.

Maths is an important life skill – how can you know if you’ve been short-changed in a shop if you can’t subtract?  How can you budget for that dream holiday?  How can you build a bridge?  Calculate the amount of medicine to give a man of a certain height and weight?  Figure out if the petrol in your car is enough to get you to the end of your journey?

… he put her to learning something called “algebra.”

“What is it?” Alanna wanted to know.

The priest frowned at her.  “It is a building block,” he told her sternly.  “Without it you cannot hope to construct a safe bridge, a successful war tower or catapult, a windmill or an irrigation wheel.  Its uses are infinite.  You will learn them by studying them, not by staring at me.”

~ Alanna: The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce

Now, I’ll admit that most people do not share my enthusiasm for maths.  So, in an effort to get more children excited about learning this vital life skill, I’m going to start a weekly series called “Monday Maths” – a selection of fun activities with numbers at their core.

Some of these are adaptations of activities in the Brownie Number Fun badge, some of them I’ve read other places and forgotten where.  Some of them are completely made up, although since they say there is nothing new under the sun you may have seen them before.

Bedroom in a Box

For this activity, the children will be designing their perfect bedroom, on a budget.  You can do this either individually or in groups, depending on how many children you have.  Doing it in groups adds negotiation to the skill set, since not everyone will have the same idea of perfect!

The children are given a hundred “pounds” and a box to be their bedroom.  In the shop they can buy furniture, fabric, wallpaper and so on.  They have to buy things to fill and decorate their room, without running out of money.  They are allowed to draw doors and windows on their room, but all wallpaper, curtains, furniture and toys must be bought from the shop.

I recommend not allowing them to include things that weren’t bought in the shop – when we did this at Brownies one of the girls insisted that a horse was a perfectly sensible thing to put in her bedroom!

Time needed: anywhere between half an hour and three hours, depending on the craft skills of your children.  I’ve found it fits nicely into an hour-long meeting.

You will need:

  • 100 pennies for each child or group of children involved (you could make it a fund-raising activity by getting them to bring their own and then giving them to charity afterwards).
  • one shoe box for each child or group of children.
  • a selection of model bedroom items (beds, wardrobes, etc).  You could search charity shops or buy cheap online, or even make your own the previous week.  Another option is to use slips of paper cut to approximately the right dimensions and then challenge the children to bring the model back the next week with more exciting furniture.
  • fabric for the children to make things like curtains, pre-cut into sensible sizes.
  • “wallpaper” (which can be wrapping paper or something similar – get several styles so there is a choice).
  • a price list for your shop (several copies is useful, so they can take them away).

Here’s a suggested price list – you can of course include other items or change the prices around as you like.

Bed ~ £10
Wardrobe ~ £10
Desk ~ £10
Chair ~ £5
Toy Cupboard ~ £15
Toys ~ £5
Curtains ~ £5
Wallpaper (large wall) ~ £7*
Wallpaper (small wall) ~ £4*
TV ~ £20
Lamp ~ £2
Sofa ~ £10
Bookshelf with books ~ £10

* For older children, you could charge by the centimetre, so they have to measure their walls too.

This should allow most children to have basic furniture, a couple of toys, and some wallpaper and curtains.  If they’re sensible they won’t buy the TV.

Some things to remember:

  • you will need to remind them to include beds and wardrobes, and not just toys!
  • you will need to remind them to check that things fit in their room.
  • younger children may need help budgeting.
  • make sure your shop includes some cheaper and some more expensive items of each type.

The most important thing is not to be too serious about it.  The aim is to make maths fun, not to recreate school in your Brownie or Guide meeting!

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6 thoughts on “Monday Maths: Getting Excited About Numbers

  1. I love the article; the ideas sound great for getting kids more interested in maths. And as for the extremely relevant Tamora Pierce quote that you managed to squeeze in there – oh, my! Now I have to ask – are you the same Snowflake, previously of fanfiction.net?

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