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January 2nd, 2018

Traveling with Numbers

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Today we are welcoming guest author, Charlotte LaRocca , a NYC parent and statistician, who loves to share her dual passion with her children–numbers and travel!

Having my sons has provided me with endless new opportunities, both expected and unexpected. One of the most enjoyable has been sharing my dual passions for travel and for numbers with them. As a statistician by profession and having taught math to students aged 5 to 45, I’m aware that while many people share my love of travel, my interest in numbers and math is not so common. In addition to other number work done at school and home, I wanted to think of ways to learn about numbers that would stimulate enthusiasm and eliminate fear from a subject that many children and adults find intimidating.

The most fun way I’ve found to do this is to incorporate number work into something my children never fail to get excited about – vacations! We have been lucky enough to travel as a family to Spain, Mexico, Jamaica, Turkey, Barbados, Singapore, Indonesia, Dubai, France, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, the Bahamas, Cyprus, and my home country, England, and they never fail to get excited for such adventures. We started off with simple things such as countdowns of how many days or weeks until our next trip. This has really helped with understanding the overall concept of time, as well as contributing to building excitement for the trip.

We then moved on to covering time differences, a strange concept at first, but one that is now very familiar. For example, my elder son would often ask, Is Grandma sleeping now? while we eat dinner. As his number skills are becoming more advanced, we discuss topics such as mileage, budgeting for a trip (a skill I could still use some help with), guessing the number of passengers on a plane to help develop estimation techniques, and many more.

These trips do not need to be exotic or international to become learning experiences. We love to take long train journeys, and so a 20-hour train ride to Chicago led to a comparison between how long the train took to get there compared to the airplane (which led to the question Why are we taking the train?). Even everyday activities can involve counting such as How many steps is it to Duane Reade from home?, How many gummies can I have after dinner?, and How many extra minutes can I stay up before bedtime?

I take advantage of all these opportunities to incorporate an affinity for numbers into my sons’ lives. I can see that they have absorbed these things almost without realizing it, and now at 4 years old my elder son can count beyond 100, add and subtract, and regularly asks me math-related questions (mainly related to how many gummies he can have!). This serves as an ongoing reminder of one of the greatest joys of parenting – sharing what you love with who you love.

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