Are we all seeing the world through a mathematical lens?

Earlier in August, I sent out a tweet one morning as I was preparing my breakfast. 

I happened to have a really large jug of milk at home, and I noticed how much of it was still left, even though the expiration date was less than a week away. As I poured the milk, I started to think about how much milk I use for each bowl of cereal, and I began to estimate if I would be able to finish the jug prior to the milk expiring. I couldn’t help but plan a Three Act Math task in my head as I also prepared my breakfast. 

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I was eating breakfast before heading into school. I love to read blog posts and books while I have my breakfast, and this is exactly what I was doing yesterday morning. I happened to look down at my cereal bowl just before I finished the cereal, and again, I was struck by the “math” staring me in the face. 

The question that I added to this Instagram post is one that I’ve been thinking about since I wrote it. Just in the past couple of days, I’ve stopped to think about the different ways that I “think mathematically.”

  • Whether it was sorting the utensils into the correct spot or figuring out how many more stacks of plates I needed to carry over to the cupboard …
  • Estimating how much the school supplies would cost me at Walmart, while also calculating the best deals …
  • Figuring out how many pounds of sand I was carrying from the shopping cart into my trunk and from my trunk into the school …
  • Figuring out how many more chairs we needed before moving the additional ones next door …
  • Figuring out how to put together a painting easel with my teaching partner‘s leadership, the use of a diagram, and many, many parts …
  • Or figuring out how to organize (sort) the books, and make three disorganized shelves of books into 2 1/2 neat shelves of books.

Make sure to swipe for more photographs.

And this list is just a snapshot in time, and doesn’t even include the “parking math” that I engage in every single day. 🙂 

I share all of these examples here because what struck me is that these are all ways that I think mathematically without anybody creating a problem for me. 

  • Sometimes I create my own problems, ask questions, and share mathematical wonders.
  • And sometimes, it’s just about looking at a situation through a mathematical lens … even if that situation involves cereal and milk.

If we want people to see themselves as “mathematicians,” do we need to also create the conditions for ongoing mathematical thinking and wondering? How do we help everyone — adults and children of all ages — see the world “mathematically?” I think that the updated Kindergarten Program Document that emphasizes “noticing and naming math through play” is a great way to get started, and could truly happen in every grade. But what else? Do we spend enough time talking about math? Theorizing about math? Taking the time to really notice and appreciate those everyday mathematical moments? Parents, educators, and administrators, as we get ready for another school year, I’d love to hear about how you’re not only planning for mathematical learning, but celebrating and extending the math in the unplanned. 


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