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    • National Numeracy
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    • By National Numeracy Verified User verified user 29th Nov 17, 1:24 PM
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    National Numeracy
    Working out energy bills and direct debits
    • #1
    • 29th Nov 17, 1:24 PM
    Working out energy bills and direct debits 29th Nov 17 at 1:24 PM
    For money savers, the cost of heating your home is always a hot topic (pun intended). But for those with patchy maths skills, understanding the charges can be a bit of a nightmare.

    At National Numeracy we want to help people understand the maths behind the charges, so we thought we'd ask for MSE users' help in explaining the numbers.

    So, in that spirit - how would you work out the question below? What aspects of numeracy would you use to arrive at your conclusion?

    If you use 11,650 kWh of gas a year, what is a sensible amount for a monthly direct debit?

    Gas Tariff:
    4.0p per kWh
    Standing charge 22p/day


    If you don't know where to start and you struggle with working out bills, then the National Numeracy Challenge could help. It's a confidential and informal website, where you can assess your numeracy, learn everyday maths, and work towards getting the Essentials of Numeracy. Register for free here.

    Related on MoneySavingExpert: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/cheapenergyclub
    Last edited by National Numeracy; 29-11-2017 at 2:21 PM. Reason: Adding MSE link
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Page 2
    • Shrimply
    • By Shrimply 30th Nov 17, 10:22 AM
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    Shrimply
    This thread got pretty alarming.

    My kids are too young for school, guess I'll have to pay close attention to their maths homework once they're old enough to start getting it.
    Originally posted by Raxiel
    I don't think you need to worry in the slightest as long as you keep them engaged and interested.

    My understanding is that the aim is to get the kids thinking for themselves, and actually understanding what is going on. Yes you can give them simple rules to follow and they might get the answer quicker but that doesn't mean they are following why they are doing it.

    e.g.

    Giving them the BODMAS rules and written mathematical problems to solve is different from practical skills where you need to work out what order to do the operations based on the question you are trying to answer.
    • Nick_C
    • By Nick_C 30th Nov 17, 11:25 AM
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    Nick_C
    I don't think you need to worry in the slightest as long as you keep them engaged and interested.

    My understanding is that the aim is to get the kids thinking for themselves, and actually understanding what is going on. Yes you can give them simple rules to follow and they might get the answer quicker but that doesn't mean they are following why they are doing it.

    e.g.

    Giving them the BODMAS rules and written mathematical problems to solve is different from practical skills where you need to work out what order to do the operations based on the question you are trying to answer.
    Originally posted by Shrimply
    Order of precedence is a convention that removes ambiguity. You don't need to work out what order to do the operations in. There is no logical basis for doing so. You simply follow the rules.
    • Shrimply
    • By Shrimply 30th Nov 17, 11:34 AM
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    Shrimply
    Order of precedence is a convention that removes ambiguity. You don't need to work out what order to do the operations in. There is no logical basis for doing so. You simply follow the rules.
    Originally posted by Nick_C
    Only if you are given a mathematical problem written in that format to solve. Not if you have to solve real life issues dealing with numbers. Knowing the rules doesn't help you write the problem down following the convention correctly either unless you are thinking about why you are doing it and what it means.

    This is the difference that people don't seem to grasp. We can easily give children work sheets with lists of problems to work through following the rules that we detail. But that doesn't do anything to teach critical thinking.
    • Nick_C
    • By Nick_C 30th Nov 17, 11:39 AM
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    Nick_C
    Only if you are given a mathematical problem written in that format to solve. Not if you have to solve real life issues dealing with numbers. Knowing the rules doesn't help you write the problem down following the convention correctly either unless you are thinking about why you are doing it and what it means.

    This is the difference that people don't seem to grasp. We can easily give children work sheets with lists of problems to work through following the rules that we detail. But that doesn't do anything to teach critical thinking.
    Originally posted by Shrimply
    To create a spreadsheet that calculates the cost of electricity, and to do it in an elegant manner, you need to understand order of precedence. An inelegant solution for people who don't understand the concept would be to use additional cells for intermediate results.

    This is a real life issue.
    • Shrimply
    • By Shrimply 30th Nov 17, 11:54 AM
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    Shrimply
    Which is my point really, knowing how to actually do the calculation correctly is far more important than an "elegant" spreadsheet.

    And it depends on your definition of elegance in any case, I think I could easily argue that a spreadsheet where each intermediate value was present but hidden was equally elegant while containing a lot more information that could be useful.

    Learning the rules when you understand the concept is far easier than learning the concept by being given the rules.
    • Ilona
    • By Ilona 30th Nov 17, 12:57 PM
    • 1,961 Posts
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    Ilona
    You've completely lost me now. No idea what those words mean. I will consult a dictionary.

    Ilona
    I love skip diving
    • badmemory
    • By badmemory 30th Nov 17, 6:09 PM
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    badmemory
    As usual, we have got massively off the topic. The whole point of initiatives such as The Numeracy Challenge is to give people the skills necessary to cope with life and work. Rather than doing maths for maths sake, I can well understand the logic of putting the challenge into Real World situations. It is irrelevant whether the CV is 39.2 or 39.8, or whether A uses a spreadsheet or B uses a calculator, the original post is about simple multiplication, addition and division. We should all applaud and support initiatives like this as it is extremely worrying that in a country such as ours that we still have people who cannot add up or read.
    Originally posted by Hengus
    Exactly. There are far too many people that seem to think that is rather clever not to be able to work out what their bill (for anything) should be. Maybe they think it means they appear well off. It doesn't. The rich did not get rich by just coughing up.

    One of the things I find worrying is following several mid-teens (regular bad timing on my part) through the check out in Home Bargains. They have bought say 3 things & they get through the tills & oh they haven't got enough money. They know how much they have but didn't check to see what the total was going to be & even worse is the one that does have enough cash & says I don't want the change. I heard one checkout person explain that this money was going in the till & would inflate the bosses profits. So!

    It doesn't bode well for any of their financial futures & anything which helps this MUST be a good thing.
    • reeac
    • By reeac 1st Dec 17, 1:08 PM
    • 1,132 Posts
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    reeac
    SWMBO and I went to a quiz a week ago - we very seldom indulge in such things but it was for a charitable cause. One question required you to divide 60 by a quarter and then add 7. The concept of dividing by a quarter caused great consternation amongst a pretty well heeled audience.
    • Smodlet
    • By Smodlet 1st Dec 17, 2:27 PM
    • 2,307 Posts
    • 4,798 Thanks
    Smodlet
    For money savers, the cost of heating your home is always a hot topic (pun intended). But for those with patchy maths skills, understanding the charges can be a bit of a nightmare.

    At National Numeracy we want to help people understand the maths behind the charges, so we thought we'd ask for MSE users' help in explaining the numbers.

    So, in that spirit - how would you work out the question below? What aspects of numeracy would you use to arrive at your conclusion?

    If you use 11,650 kWh of gas a year, what is a sensible amount for a monthly direct debit?

    Gas Tariff:
    4.0p per kWh
    Standing charge 22p/day
    Originally posted by National Numeracy
    What a brilliant topic, imho! It being the first of the month, I have just been doing exactly this for my own usage so I know precisely (calorific value fluctuations notwithstanding) how much credit I have left.

    11650 kwh x (multiplied by) 0.04 pence (unit price) = £466 for gas usage

    Standing charge = 365 (days in a year) x (multiplied by) 0.22 pence = £80.30

    Add them together and what have you got? £546.30 cost for the year, divide this by 12 months in the year = £45.53, normally rounded up to the nearest whole £ = £46 per month, assuming prices quoted include V.A.T.

    If V.A.T. is not included, £546.30 x (multiplied by) 5% = £27.32, add this to £546.30 = £573.62 divided by 12 months = £47.80 so £48 per month DD.

    As has been mentioned, the conversion to kwh is already done in this instance but, for those of us still on an antediluvian meter in 100s of cubic feet, the conversion formula should be on your bill. I have it down, now: meter reading subtracting previous meter reading multiplied by 2.83, multiplied by calorific value typically 39.5, multiplied by 1.02264 divided by 3.6 = kwh.

    A grade 'O' Level maths... No idea what BODMAS is!


    ETA: 4 pence per kwh for gas is astronomical, imo. Compare and switch, already, armed with the knowledge to work out for yourself how much you will save as the CEC can only go on average usage.
    Last edited by Smodlet; 01-12-2017 at 2:31 PM.
    What is this life if, sweet wordsmith, we have no time to take the pith?
    Every stew starts with the first onion.
    I took it upon myself to investigate a trifle; it had custard, jelly, soggy sponge things...
    • Smodlet
    • By Smodlet 1st Dec 17, 2:52 PM
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    Smodlet
    Only if you are given a mathematical problem written in that format to solve. Not if you have to solve real life issues dealing with numbers. Knowing the rules doesn't help you write the problem down following the convention correctly either unless you are thinking about why you are doing it and what it means.

    This is the difference that people don't seem to grasp. We can easily give children work sheets with lists of problems to work through following the rules that we detail. But that doesn't do anything to teach critical thinking.
    Originally posted by Shrimply

    ... Doesn't sound as if it does much to teach them maths either which, in a maths lesson, is surely the point? If "critical thinking" were correctly applied in the situation Hengus described, your students would not get to the till without knowing they had tried to buy more than they could pay for. No wonder employers complain about the woeful lack of numeracy (and literacy) skills in young job applicants.
    What is this life if, sweet wordsmith, we have no time to take the pith?
    Every stew starts with the first onion.
    I took it upon myself to investigate a trifle; it had custard, jelly, soggy sponge things...
    • NineDeuce
    • By NineDeuce 1st Dec 17, 3:08 PM
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    NineDeuce
    (11650 x 0.04) + (365 x 0.22) = yearly cost. Divide by 12
    • Smodlet
    • By Smodlet 1st Dec 17, 5:16 PM
    • 2,307 Posts
    • 4,798 Thanks
    Smodlet
    Just been looking at my credit balance on my account and you really need to know this stuff! According to my provider, I have over twice the amount of credit I actually have because their stupid website takes no account of the cost of energy used since the last bill. All it does is take the balance, credit or debit, from your last bill and add on how much you have paid to date.

    I can see how easy it could be to think you had far more credit than, in fact, you do were you not aware of this and unable to work out how much you have actually used.
    What is this life if, sweet wordsmith, we have no time to take the pith?
    Every stew starts with the first onion.
    I took it upon myself to investigate a trifle; it had custard, jelly, soggy sponge things...
    • teddysmum
    • By teddysmum 1st Dec 17, 5:44 PM
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    teddysmum
    When I was teaching GCE and CSE maths there was a section of the syllabus covering practical application of mathematical skills to real life situations. ( utility bills, other billing with a standing charge, simple and compound interest on savings and loans).


    The higher ability pupils also had to make formulae which would calculate bills (eg cost of using a courier who asked a basic charge then so much per kg)then apply them for given data.


    I understand all methods taught nowadays, but some are long winded and not the obvious choice. Also,too many teachers are expected to teach subjects which need specialist knowledge, just so staffing figures are met.


    I'm also curious as to why a provider of basic mathematical skills is asking how others would solve a problem.
    • Shrimply
    • By Shrimply 4th Dec 17, 12:00 PM
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    • 468 Thanks
    Shrimply
    ... Doesn't sound as if it does much to teach them maths either which, in a maths lesson, is surely the point? If "critical thinking" were correctly applied in the situation Hengus described, your students would not get to the till without knowing they had tried to buy more than they could pay for. No wonder employers complain about the woeful lack of numeracy (and literacy) skills in young job applicants.
    Originally posted by Smodlet
    If you think that a couple of children of an unknown age and level are an appropriate representative sample on which to be drawing any conclusions then perhaps you could do with some more teaching on critical thinking.

    And I'm not a teacher, but I'm going to guess that I've been through the education system more recently than the majority of the people posting on this thread. And I feel that both teachers and young people need defended because there is a lot of good teaching going on and a lot of very clever children leaving school. This seems to be completely overlooked when grandparents start comparing how capable their grandchildren are compared to what level they remember being at, at a similar age. And maybe in these cases there should be more effort put into supporting the teachers and the material, rather than teaching the children alternative methods.
    • teddysmum
    • By teddysmum 4th Dec 17, 1:59 PM
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    teddysmum
    If you think that a couple of children of an unknown age and level are an appropriate representative sample on which to be drawing any conclusions then perhaps you could do with some more teaching on critical thinking.

    And I'm not a teacher, but I'm going to guess that I've been through the education system more recently than the majority of the people posting on this thread. And I feel that both teachers and young people need defended because there is a lot of good teaching going on and a lot of very clever children leaving school. This seems to be completely overlooked when grandparents start comparing how capable their grandchildren are compared to what level they remember being at, at a similar age. And maybe in these cases there should be more effort put into supporting the teachers and the material, rather than teaching the children alternative methods.
    Originally posted by Shrimply


    However, only having been a student and recently, you only have your peer group to compare with.


    Circa 1990,I had a job in a private school and was asked to teach A level maths, so commented that I would need to revise (even though I have a maths degree),as I hadn't taught A level before. The head of department laughed and said that there was no need as formulae were given in separate questions, removing the need commit to memory and decide on the appropriate formula to use.


    This was quite true and the questions ,though current students will deny this, were easier, as instead of being one long complicated question (especially in applied maths), multiple simpler questions now guided the way, by providing data for the final result.


    With an easier system, a false impression of better ability is given, while clever children do achieve the top target, but aren't allowed to show their full potential.


    My 8 year-old grandson is finding his now (he had a reading age over 8 years when just 4)as when he finishes his work well ahead of his classmates, he is told to go away and read, instead of being given something more challenging.
    • Hengus
    • By Hengus 4th Dec 17, 2:32 PM
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    Hengus
    My wife and I were in a supermarket this morning. An elderly lady ahead of us bought goods amounting to £12.69. She handed over a plastic bag of coins to the teenage cashier who then had three goes at counting out the money. The coins came to £8.50. The cashier said rightly said that there were insufficient funds to cover the cost of the goods. This is were the problems started. Both parties concluded that an additional sum of money was needed somewhere between £4 and £5. Two £2 coins were handed over and by this time the cashier had forgotten how much cash she actually had. My wife helped out and said that you now have £12.50 in your hand. Even then, the cashier couldn't work out how much more money was needed.

    She did though have the common sense to know that £4 was too little and that £5 would be too much. Finally, £4 was handed back and a £5 note given. The cashier still struggled to work out how much money she had in her hand, so my wife again obliged. Once £13.50 had been entered into the till, the till did its thing and worked out the change. All this took about 5 minutes.

    There is no one size fits all here. Clearly, the brightest need to be pushed given that it is often said that in most modern countries less than 10% of the population generate over 80% of a Country's wealth but, equally, the less gifted have to be given the additional teaching needed to attain a basic level in the 3 'R's.
    • Shrimply
    • By Shrimply 4th Dec 17, 2:34 PM
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    Shrimply
    However, only having been a student and recently, you only have your peer group to compare with.
    Originally posted by teddysmum
    Touche

    I'm sure that we were always provided with formulae sheets, never just given the formula to use. But surely these changes are actually beneficial to the majority of children. Yes they maybe don't separate out the smartest, but they do given others a change to pick up marks rather than just fail completely, which has to be positive for their education.

    I think problems with dealing with advanced pupils is a different subject though. It just isn't possible to provide an personalised education to every child. And attempts to do so within mainstream eduction are never particularly successful.
    • Nick_C
    • By Nick_C 4th Dec 17, 3:46 PM
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    Nick_C
    My wife and I were in a supermarket this morning...
    Originally posted by Hengus
    I blame decimalisation and calculators. Shop assistants used to work out the total in their heads, or write the cost of each item on a paper bag working in fractions and base 12 and base 20 quite happily. And if the total was £4-18s-6d you could hand over a five pound note and a couple of thruppeny bits confident in the knowledge the you would get a two shilling piece back.

    And of course imperial weights and measures meant we could all do base 8, base 14, and base 16 as well.

    Try giving a young person £5.03 when the bill is £4.93 and they will look at you in bewilderment.
    • teddysmum
    • By teddysmum 5th Dec 17, 3:40 PM
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    teddysmum
    The problem is that today's teachers have also suffered from the dumbing down of education. You need to be educated to a level quite a lot higher than that at which you are teaching, so by lowering the ceiling for the teacher you also lower the level for the pupil.


    A good maths teacher is able to offer a struggling pupil an alternative approach; something which may not occur to someone educated in a streamlined situation aiming at a predictable set of exam questions.


    For example, a question about paying change could just be taught as a subtraction sum, in order to pass an exam, which will require proof of calculation, but in real life ,the pupil needs to know how to work out change mentally by rounding and also how to use rounding as a means of keeping tally of the cost of items in their basket or for working out how many f an item can be purchased for a named sum of money.


    Calculators are fine, if you know how to work them(there are two types) and can estimate in order to realise that you have made a mistake and that the answer is incorrect.
    Last edited by teddysmum; 05-12-2017 at 4:04 PM.
    • matelodave
    • By matelodave 5th Dec 17, 4:52 PM
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    matelodave
    I reckon most teachers take the Jimmy Edwards approach (only us old un's will remember) and that was just to be one lesson ahead of the kids.

    My daughter teaches both O & A level science (they don't seem to do much in the way of discrete Physics, Chemistry or Biology nowdays) and the science department have to run a parallel course in Maths for Science as the kids can't do the maths required. Apparenty that sort of maths isn't thought necessary in the normal maths classes.

    She says the time to get them up to speed in maths just detracts from the time left to teach the science subjects. Her biggest bone of contention is that the kids dont even know how to draw or interpret graphs.
    Love makes the world go round - beer make it go round even faster
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