I’ve just become aware that April is Math Awareness Month.

This means the Joint Policy Board for Math Awareness is promoting the need for more and greater math and statistics education to better handle the “data deluge”; that the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has released the 21st Century Math Skills Map, a reference for educators working to integrate mathematics into other subjects; and that we are all officially banned from declaring, “Oh, I was never very good at math,” for the duration of the month — and, if we’re wise, forever, at least in front of our children.

But besides stopping the bad-mouthing of our own math skills and making sure that we’re distributing our numbers-related conversations equally among our sons and daughters, what can a parent do to increase “math awareness” in our everyday lives?

How about a bedtime math problem?

The bedtime story is a treasured ritual in many families. It’s axiomatic among parents that a nightly story makes reading alluring, increases vocabulary, and supports reasoning skills, like the sequencing of events, and cause and effect. Why, wondered Laura Overdeck, mother, astrophysics graduate, M.B.A. and lifelong “numbers person,” couldn’t a bedtime math problem do the same thing for math concepts?

Ms. Overdeck’s own children adored the nightly problems, and earlier this year, she introduced “Bedtime Math.” Each nightly problem (which you can receive by e-mail, or read on the site) offers a question for “wee ones (counting on fingers),” and little or big kids. They’re meant to be solved in their heads, and to promote both giggles and mathematical thought.

Here’s yesterday’s offering, Milkshake Car:

For all the technology in today’s cars – sensors, cameras, satellite radio – what we need is a car where, when you shut the door and buckle in, it makes a milkshake for you. This seems totally doable in a car: as the wheels turn, the axle spins the blender. There are cupholders already, too. All we need is a spot for the ice cream, somewhere near the air-conditioner.

It’s pretty clear that if you had a car like that, everyone would want to carpool with you.

Wee ones (counting on fingers): If your car makes 2 chocolate shakes and 3 strawberry shakes, how many shakes in total did it make?

Little kids: If your car can mix 3 milkshakes for every mile you drive, how many shakes can it make if you drive 4 miles? Bonus: If half of them are chocolate shakes, how many shakes is that?

Big kids: You have 7 people total in the car during carpool. If each milkshake requires 9 spoonfuls of ice cream, how much ice cream will you need to make 1 shake for everyone? Bonus: Your car can mix 2 milkshakes for every 3 miles you drive. How far do you have to drive to make all those shakes?

Answers, and more of the same, are at Bedtime Math. Do you work to incorporate math into your family’s daily life? How?

By KJ Dell’Antonia

Source: The New York Times – http://goo.gl/9W9lJ