Friday, February 22, 2013

Just the facts: Mom’s do Math Everyday

Math is integrated in all areas of life.  Mothers are experts at doing mental math everyday without even thinking about it. In fact, we are quite good at math, but then….I’d wager cleaning your bathroom sinks that you already knew that!

For instance, when I hid four candy bars in my closet and came back the next day ready for a chocolate fix and find three wrappers and half a square of one bar left I use deductive reasoning to conclude that I either a) am a glutton for punishment and candy bars or b) someone thought by leaving a half a square of chocolate that it would satisfy me and alleviate the four spankings that are fairly due.  Another example is… if I leave ten minutes before the orthodontist appointment for my daughter, I should expect to arrive five minutes late.  That equals stress on my part, a dirty look from the receptionist, and ten minutes or more of extra wait time in the lobby plus or equal to the wait I must already have because they are always busy when we get there.   

If I notice my children are not very hungry one afternoon, mathematical reasoning tells me to make fewer sandwiches. Murphy’s Law teaches me that once they start eating they will be hungrier than at first they thought and therefore I must spend extra time pulling the ingredients back out of the cupboard, making more, and cleaning up again.  The next time I notice the children are not very hungry I try to remember the last math lesson I learned and make enough and extra. If they don’t eat it I store it away and then I will have negative time because I have saved it for the next meal or snack.  Negative time equals more time doing what I want---ideally, and therefore a less grumpy mom.

The real fun begins when we start multiplying. My two-year-old, red-headed little boy loves his mother. I could do no wrong in his eyes, so when I get ready to leave the house he always gives me two or more hugs and kisses before I open the door and two or more hugs and kisses when I’ve reached the porch.  When the rest of the children have realized that I’m leaving the house, they beg for one or two to come with (they know that I rarely take all nine children with me) and so now it is time to use their spiritual gift of persuasion.  If this doesn’t work, they move on to the next phase and that is to beg for more than one treat and remind me of all the good things they did that day to earn the treat (they’re learning multiplication and estimation here).   If that is a no-go, they move on to phase three, which is… what else can we get if we can’t come with you.  This looks something like, “Can we watch a movie if we finish all of our chores?” Or “Can we make two bowls of popcorn and listen to Mama Mia…if we finish all of our chores?”  The answers from me vary depending upon mood, or forgiveness of the chores not done, or seeing all their nine innocent faces staring pleadingly up into mine.  They’re good, but I’m better. They learn from the best!

Division is a bit harder.  Lots of pondering must go into division.  Should I cook two chicken breasts and divide them into a stir-fry or a picnic roast and divide it in more generous portions…the answer would depend on the time of day I’m pondering this question or how much work I choose to do standing in the kitchen.

Dividing and conquering cleaning the house can be chaotic and miserable or fun and organized.   Either way, it is a necessary evil math problem.  First, I have to think about who has been lazy lately, who can be counted on, and who should work alone, and who needs a buddy to help them along the way.  Then I have to divide the house into cleaning zones and assign the groups or individuals segments and zones.  This can get complicated very quickly.  The worst is when I see someone goofing off or hiding in the bathroom and I have to remember where they were assigned and to what regiment group.

Each woman has an innate sense of math skills and talent whether she knows it or not.  We are interior designers, which require knowledge of algebra to gain an understanding of formulas and their application to design. For example, determining the amount of paint needed based on surface area divided by the coverage each can of paint provides.  And Geometry is needed for determining spacial relationships in a room as well as measurement. Also, the calculation of angles and area are needed.  She needs these skills in determining how many kids can fit in the bathtub at one time or how many beds and bureaus a 9’x9’ room can hold.
As a mother she is multiplying and replenishing the earth and has to keep track of birth dates, each of her offspring, height, weight, clothing sizes, how many meals she fed them, how many days she grounded him/her, etc.  She divides her time and attention and multiplies her love.  How many times have you used math today?  Does each mother know…she is a genius and Einstein has nothing on her?!

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