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of the
November 2002
Math Cats
Writing Contest:

On September 29, 2002, a boy wrote to us:

Dear Math Cats, Why do we have math????

We thought that was a good question. We turned it into the November 2002 Writing Contest. Below are the winning entries. We hope you'll read them all! (Last names will be posted when parents provided permission.)

First Place - "Math: More Than a Student's Nightmare"
Second Place (a tie!) - "A World Without Math" and "If We Didn't Have Math..."
Third Place - "A Story About James"
Fourth Place - "Billy - Why Do We Have Math?"
Best Adult Entry - "Morning Math"
   (It would have been a winner if it had been written by a kid!)
Other Finalists
Our Youngest Entrant
Other Nice Entries

Who judged the contest?
We're helping a special friend of Math Cats, too!

* First Place
(winner of the handmade Math Cats Soma blocks):

Math: More Than a Student's Nightmare
by Bethany Henderson
age 14, grade 8, homeschooled, Lincoln City, Oregon, U.S.

     "Length is 20 feet, width is 15 feet, so if I..." My muttering was interrupted by the crashing sound of a pyramid of tomato sauce cans.
     "Get to work on those multiplication problems!" I growled at my little brother. He sighed.
     "Why do we have math anyway?" He scowled at the sheet of paper laying on the table.
     "Well, just think about it. Imagine you're shopping at the store. You decide to buy five packs of gum for 50 cents. If you didn't know how to add or multiply, you wouldn't know how much money you'd need."
     "But we have calculators now."
     "What if you lose or break the calcuator? Or get transported to another dimension where calculators don't exist?"
     He giggled. "That wouldn't happen."
     "Hey," I shrugged, "you never know. Besides, there are lots of times where you just can't use a calculator. Now work on your math."
     "Bephy! You only told me two reasons. That's not enough."
     "All right, you know fractions and percentages?"
     "I know what they are."
     "I use fractions when I cook. When I make cookies and double the recipe, if I don't know my math, the cookies could turn out tasting disgusting because I put too much of something in. Remember the time I made a mistake and put too much baking soda into the pancakes?"
     My brother made a face. "Yes. But Mommy never lets me cook."
     "Well you use fractions when you divide a candy bar."
     "Yeah right!"
     "No, it's true. Let's say you divide it into ten equal pieces, and eat two. You would use fractions to figure out how much you've eaten, and how much you haven't."
     "That's easy! At least one part of math is. What about percentages?"
     "Mmm...they use percentages a lot to tell people about the way things are. Like when a news guy says that there's an 80% chance of rain, what does it mean?"
     "That it's probably gonna rain. But I don't pay attention to stuff like that! It always rains here."
     "Excuses, excuses." I smiled. "All right, if your teacher didn't know how to do percentages, she might give you a bad grade on accident. Instead of an A, you might get a D."
     "Then I'd have to take the class again. No way!"
     "Oh yeah, that reminds me," I said slyly, "Mommy is going to see your paper at the teacher conference. And she doesn't like bad grades."
     He looked at me terrified and scurried away to the table.
     "All right! I get the idea! I have to learn math real real good."
     "Oh sure, you're just going to now so you don't get in trouble."
     " Not only 'cause of that. I'm gonna be a cook and scientist and reporter when I grow up!"
     I simply smiled and went back to planning out my garden. "Two sides are 20 feet, two sides are fifteen feet...that's 40 and 30, which equals 70, so I'd need 70 feet to fence it in." *

Bethany wins first prize: a one-of-a-kind handmade handpainted set of Soma blocks, created by Wendy Petti, the mother of all Math Cats. The blocks are made of 27 cubes, decorated with 27 white Math Cats. You can use the 7 Soma blocks to make lots and lots of 3D shapes (like a cube and a staircase and a bed and a throne). The first prize includes a booklet with lots of design ideas.

* Second Place (tie):

A World Without Math
by Justine Pena
age 12, grade 6, Liberty Middle School, Mrs. Ruiz's class, Pharr, TX, U.S.

     Could you imagine a world without math? You're probably thinking yes, because you think math is just adding and subtracting. Boy, you wouldn't know how much chaos there would be in the world if we didn't use math...
     If people didn't use math there would be no speed limit, because math includes numbers. We would not know how much flour, milk, or oil to add in the cake batter, for measurement is also a very vital part of math. You would not know how much those ingredients cost, because money and decimals are very important in math.
     Say if you when you get older want to have a job in the Stock Market, it would not exist, because it is a combination of numbers, decimals, percentages(%), and so on. If you wanted to have a job in the medical field it would not be possible because we would not know how much medicine to give out in prescriptions or even how much patients weigh. If you want to be a TV weather person you could not because temperature is also part of math. Thus, a world without math would not have any jobs to offer the world. For all jobs need one little number, even a phone number is math.
     Now you understand a little bit more about why math is important to the human race. Besides, I bet you love knowing how old you are!

Second Place (tie):

If We Didn't Have Math...
by Jay Hutchinson
age 9, grade 4, Burton Elementary School, Mrs. Marsden's class,
Farmington, Utah, U.S.

     If we didn't have math, how would we know how much change to get at the store? It could be low, it could be high. No one would know 1 + 1 = 2, they might think it = 3, = 4, = 0, etc. Math helps our brains think. In fact my teacher told me that everything you learn gets stored in neurons (cells in your brain). At about the age of 10, every neuron that you're not using just goes away. If we didn't have math, those neurons would be history. Math is my favorite subject in school. I don't know what I would do without math. I Luv Math!!!!!!!!! If we didn't have math, we couldn't count. Everyone would make fun of each other. The entire world would be a big ruckus. Personally, I hate seeing someone's feelings get hurt. If we didn't have math, we wouldn't have, well, pretty much, anything!!!!! In conclusion, we NEED math or we would live on everything natural. No computers, no buildings, no theory of relativity, no theory of gravity, worst of all, no computers = no internet = no math cats.

* Third Place:

A Story About James
by Marcus B.
age 10, grade 5, Marion C. Early School, Mrs. Perkins' class,
Morrisville, Missouri, U.S.

     When James was in school he didn't pay much attention to math. He was one of those kinds of people that thought he knew it all.
     But when he got out of high school he needed a job, so he went from place to place until he came along to McDonalds, and they needed someone who could work the cash register.
     Well, James said, "I can do that."
     So the manager said, "Well, you're hired, show up tomorrow morning at 7:30 am."
     He was so excited! he rushed home to tell his roommate.
     Well nightfall had come, so he decided to hit the sack early to get a good night's rest before starting his new job tomorrow.
     Well morning came and he got up and got ready for his new job. He was excited.
     Once he got there the manager showed James to the cash register. "Well, you're on your own kid, I've got other things that I need to do."
     A customer came in and went right to James' register. "I would like a Big Mac and a small fries and a Coke please."
     So he rang it up and it came to $4.17. The customer gave James a $20.00 bill. James did not know what to do, because the register did not show him how much change that he was to give back to the customer. He felt so embarrassed.
     The manager caome to see what was going on. James said that he did not know how to add, so the manager took the $20.00 from James and gave back the customer $15.83 in change.
     The manager told James that he was sorry but he was going to have to let him go.
     So James decided that he had better just go back to school and learn how to do math, because you just can't go through life without it. Math is all around us, in everyday life.

* Fourth Place:

Billy - Why Do We Have Math?
by Kayla Piehler
age 10, grade 5, Dogwood Hill School, Mrs. Miggels' class,
Oakland, New Jersey, U.S.

Dear Billy,

     As friend of your favorite inventor (Albert Einstein), I believe I can inform you on why we have math in this world. Oh, phoo! I sound like Albert. The only thing that bugged me about him is that he was always so intelligent and serious. I'm getting off topic again! Well, math was invented because people didn't know how much to pay for a shirt and couldn't add or round or do anything that has to do with math! Math was invented when I was 4 and that was centuries ago, to make life easier. Think about things you do in everyday life. Many of those things would be hard if math weren't thought. Go to Einstein's grave and he'll tell you. What I am getting to is that we need math to do even the simplest things!

~ Your friend,
Ganuy Kayla P. (38437487482 years in age)

* Best Adult Entry:

Morning Mathematics
by Chris McKerracher
age 42, School of Hard Knocks, Teacher: Experience,
Calmar, Alberta, Canada

     The main purpose of mathematics is to wake myself up in the morning. All other uses for it are accidental. Perhaps I should explain.
     I have a love-hate relationship going with my alarm clock. That is to say, I love to hate it. I know how it feels about me. Nothing. It is a cold, heartless and calculating device who's only role in life is to wake me when I least want to be wakened. I am sure it and all alarm clocks like it were designed by the Marquis de Sade Electonics Corporation.
     Mine is one of those electronic AM/FM clock radios with a double wake up timer so you can irritate two people for the price of one. Like most timepieces of this variety, my clock radio has a choice of wake up sounds. You can have the excruciatingly hideous alarm noise that is sure to arouse you from anything short of a coma or you can wake up to soothing music. This choice only works most of the time. Sometimes you wake up with the urgent realization that the music is on and it's a half an hour later than you usually get up. Nothing gets one's blood going faster in the morning than a good shot of lateness.
     Don't you hate that when you try to shut your alarm clock off when your hand is asleep from laying on it wrong? (At least I think that's what its from although I'm always asleep at the time so it's hard for me to tell.) When you reach for the turn-off button, your deadened digits refuse to co-operate which causes you to knock over the half glass of water you left on your night stand all over the new paperback you had just bought.
     My alarm clock also has a "snooze" feature so that after the alarm goes off, I can press a button and seven minutes later I can be annoyed all over again.
     Use of this feature is where the mathematics comes in. If you're not a morning mathematician, you will never understand it.
     Morning math is where you have to get up at, say, 6:30 so you set your clock for 6:15. This way, you can get a few "snooze" hits in before you really have to get up. You also set the clock ahead five minutes to be sure you will get up on time. This leads to thoughts of "What time will it really be if I hit the "snooze" just once more? Let's see, the clock says 6:22 and the "snooze" gives me seven more minutes, that's 6:29 less the five minutes I set the clock ahead to trick myself into getting a head start puts it at 6:24. Add to that another seven minutes for another "snooze" and, well, you get the general idea. You mull it over in your head so long the alarm is going off again and you haven't figured out if you really truly have to get out of bed this time.
     Fortunately for me I have a fail-safe mechanism. If I hit the "snooze" button too often my wife wakes up and suggests I get a move on... in no uncertain terms. At this point I am only too happy to arise from my stupor and escape her vengeful wrath. I figure after fourteen years of marriage she should be used to it by now. Apparently I am incorrect in my estimation. In fact, she claims she doesn't need an alarm clock to wake up with a jerk.
     I think the best way to get up on a Monday morning would be to have my dear wife singing my name gently as she brings me in a copy of the paper and a steaming mug of coffee. "Your boss called", she will cheerfully inform me, "he says you can take today off with double pay so take your time, Honey, breakfast will be ready when you're done. Oh, by the way," she will add, "why is your breath always so fresh in the morning?"
     Unfortunately, it never happens that way. Pity.

These top entries (above) receive special large Math Cats certificates, and the other finalists (below) receive smaller certificates.

* Other Finalists

We Gotta Have Math
Keylee Dalee Mori-Ramos
age 9, grade 5, Schweinfurt Elementary School, Mrs. Atamaniuk's class,
Schweinfurt, Germany

Why do we have math? That's an easy question. We have math to make life easier! Suppose you have a limited amount of money that you can spend. You want to purchase a few items but you can't add the prices to see if you have enough money. Now you need math. Suppose you know you have double of what you had last year for your camp, but you can't multiply to save your life. Now you need math. You only have ten fingers and you won't always have a calculator handy. You definitely need math. Well, now you know why you need math!

Why do we have math?
by Omar Ezzikouri
age 6 (dictated to his mother), Powder Springs, Georgia, U.S.

Math is an important invention because we use it to count things, and measure and build things, figure out when to do things like eat dinner, and to figure out the portions of things like pizza slices.

Math is used to make pretty shapes, in many sizes. Even colors can be figured out mathematically.

I especially like to figure out how much money I have so I can save up to buy cool things. Someday I am going to run a business and I will need math to help me keep watch of my money because if I don't watch out, I won't have enough money to buy food for my family. If we don't learn math when we are kids, we won't know how to do things when we grow up.

The Purpose of World Wide Math
by Zoe Wells-McGaffin
age 12, grade 7, Okaihau College, Ms. Langstone's class
Okaihau, Nthld, New Zealand

     If math was optional, at least 55% of the kids in New Zealand would choose not to take it, but this means that they have not thought about the future and what would happen to them if they didn't take math. They would not be able to count money and they would not even know how to count! We need math to keep us motivated. We need math to tell the time and we need math to show us the way. If we didn't have math, there would probably be no famous Albert Einstein or Plato. We need math so much and if math was gone on holiday, we would all be a bunch of dummies who can't go to the bank because no one would know how to add or subtract. So you see, we need math in every day life to keep us smart and to keep us motivated, so we know that if math went on holiday, we would still be none the wiser.

Math Can Be Beautiful!
by Julian Tebye
age 78, well beyond a Bachelor's degree, Los Angeles, California, U.S.

     Math keeps us on the ball. It begins with counting. Spreads to subtracting, adding, dividing, multiplying. Then, you get into the various areas, such as number theory, algebra, geometry, solid geometry, calculua--many other areas such as transfinite numbers, imaginary numbers, square roots and squares, cube roots and cubes, et cetera, ad infinitum. I think that only teachers will find all of these areas fascinating.
     But, math is not just fun--it is useful--in art, music, architecture, metallurgy, chemistry, physics, et cetera.
     For myself, I love number theory, algebra and transfinite numbers. Calculus never appealed to me. So I could never be a Leibniz or a Newton.
     I love the findings of Fermat. I love his famous "Last Theorem," in which he claimed to have found a wonderful proof that no two numbers greater than squares could add to another number of that degree. It has been, supposedly, proven (finally) in the last few years. But--I was very disappointed that the proof was not algebraic--as Fermat would have done it. Indeed, the form in which it was created is simply beyond my comprehension.
     Playing with numbers and algebraic symbols (and, I suspect, in other areas of math) can be rewarding, satisfying, and great fun.
     I have met so many people who hate and/or are afraid of math. That's a pity--because Math can be so beautiful! So wonderful! Humans--and all animals, I think--love to play. And Math makes a great thing to play with. It is also exciting, instructive, as well as, important. How can you pay your bills if you don't know the basics of Math? How can you play cards? How can you roll dice? How can you dance?
     In short--without Math--how can you live?!
     Well--even those who don't know Math, know Math in an intuitive sense. For example, in cooking, a mother knows to add only a pinch of oregano (for instance)--or whatever other ingredients. Is this not specific? When writing the dish up as a recipe, we must spell out "a pinch" or "a quarter teaspoonful," and so on.
     We know Math--even if we think we don't know Math!

Why We Have Math
Keylee Dalee Mori-Ramos
age 9, grade 5, Schweinfurt Elementary School, Mrs. Atamaniuk's class,
Schweinfurt, Germany

Why do we have math? Well math is required for every job. You may not think this is true but it is! A writer: You have to use math to know the costs of your books, to get them published, things like that! A carpenter: To cut wood and all that stuff you need to know about centimeters, meters, inches, things in that category. Company Owner: You ALWAYS need to know math for this. You own a factory, a company! How much money you owe and earn needs math as everybody SHOULD know. Well, that's why you need math!

Dear John
by Elizabeth Wilde
age 9, grade 4, Ecot School, Dawn Varner's class
Barberton, Ohio, U.S.

Dear John,

We have math because if we did not,
there would be no money. If there was
no money you would not be able to
buy food, clothing, shelter, or help the poor and hungry.

* Our Youngest Entrant

I Love Math Cats
by Matthew Chinn
age 3, Montessori Preschool, Mrs. Sarha's class, San Mateo, California, U.S.

We have math so that we can learn our numbers.

* Other Nice Entries

Why Do We Have Math?
by Shelby Yamada
age 8, grade 3, Farragut School, Mrs. Morgan's class
Culver City, California, U.S.

     We have math because if we buy something we need to know how much it costs and how to pay for it with coins. We also need to know math so we can do everyday things like buy toys and count the birds and talk to people and sound smart. We also need math to drive and have a good education and a good job. I think math is great and fun. Math and science are my favorite subjects. That is why we need math.

Why do we have math?
by Tatum Williamson
age 8, grade 3, Aztec Elementary School, Mrs. Stahlman's class
Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.

     We have math so we can add up objects. without math we would not have numbers. We would not have shoe sizes. We would not have lots of things. Not even birthdays!!!

Why We Have Math
by Megan Fisette
age 10, grade 4, homeschooled, Woodbine, Georgia, U.S.

     We have math to help us every day! For instance, if we didn't have math, we wouldn't be able to pay for food we needed. We have math to count how many costumes we need for a play. When we're old enough to cook, we wouldn't know how much rice to put into a measuring cup if we didn't have math. So we have math to help us with just about everything!

What Is So Wrong With Math???
by Allison Brower
age 13, grade 8, homeschooled, Idaho Falls, Idaho, U.S.

My dear friends,

     After much thought and deliberation, I have come up with a solution to this perplexing predicament you so unfortunately find yourselves in at the present time. It is my philosophy that people only think they hate MATH. MATH is in fact a most vital part of our daily lives. For instance, I can count and make sure that I have the correct number of fingers and toes on my hands and feet, because of MATH !!!!!! I'm so sorry that you do not enjoy the blessing of MATH as much as I do !

Dear Math Cats
by April Monett
age 11, grade 5, Ridgewood Elementary School, Mrs. Cave's class,
Hilliard, Ohio, U.S.

Dear Math Cats,

     I think the reason we have and need math is because when you get older and have a family you will need to know how to do taxes, or else you won't have a family or a house. Another reason is because if you were to walk into a store and you needed to pay for something, first of all you would need to know how to do math and add numbers. And that's why I think we have and need math.

Why Do We Need Math
by Emily Jeffries
age 9, grade 4, Scobee Elementary School, Mrs. Shanahan and Mrs. Metcalf's class,
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.

     We have math because I LOVE not like math and I mean LOVE! We also have math because we need to learn. Ex: Say you went to H.E.B. and bought a mini skirt that cost $4.78, and a bright green T-shirt that cost $3.24. How would you know how much to pay? That's what I think we have math for. What do you think?

What Would Happen If Math and Numbers Didn't Exist
by Sazzy Arora
age 9, grade 5, Abbey Reading School, Mrs. Glithro's class,
Reading, Berkshire, England

     Without math we would not be able to mark dates in history. We would not have Science or time. The world would not be COOL!!!!! :-) We would not be able to do probably ANYTHING!!!!!

Why We Have Math
by Terra LeMoine
age 9, grade 4, Apache Elementary School, Mr. Macdonald's class,
Avondale, Arizona, U.S.

     I think the reason why we have math is to educate children with numbers. For example if they were to grow up and be an architect they would have to know numbers to make sure measurements were right. Same thing with doctors - they have to know how many milligrams their patient needs. So, as you can see math is used in every day life, even some things that you wouldn't even imagine. That is why I think we have math.

Why Do We Have Math?
by Maisie Tripp
age 9, grade 4, British School of Brussels, Caroline O'Neill's class,
Tervuren, Belgium

     Because maths is a very good part of school and just wouldn't be the same without it. Maths can be very good fun and can have games included. The games are also fun and it is a group activity so no one can get left out. Every day you should have a maths lesson. It's one of the things you never get bored of. You can learn so many different things and nothing isn't interesting.

Why Do We Have Math?
by Molly Clement
age 12, grade 6, Ector ISD, Mrs. Norton's class,
Ector, Texas, U.S.

     We have math so that students can get an education and go to college. Math is a very important part of life. We use math every day whether we are at school or work. Math is used when you go to the bank, or when you are doing your homework. Math can help you learn for when you get a job whether it's fast food cashier or a banker. Math will help you throughout life. Math helps us at basketball and baseball games with the score. That is why math is important to me.

Math Is Important....
by Erin Hennessey
age 11, grade 6, Madoc Public School, Mrs. Scanlen's class,
Madoc, Ontario, Canada

     We have math because we have to know how to add, multiply and divide to get through life properly. If we didn't have math then we wouldn't get a good job. This is what the world would be like if we did not have math, you wouldn't be able to calculate numbers in science and if science went down lots and lots of people would die because we wouldn't have the technology we do right know. People wouldn't know how much money they have because they wouldn't know how to count. So that's why math is important to have on earth!!!!

Thank you Thank you

Why We Need Math
by Aja Cormier
age 11, grade 5, Anthony F. Lucas Elementary School, Mrs. J. Stuberfield's class,
Beaumont, Texas, U.S.

     I think that math is so important. Without it we would not be able to do many of the things we thrive on. For example, without math we wouldn't be able to count how much money we have to buy things we need. If you had a business, you would need to order things and would have to multiply to see if you had enough of what you needed. Without math, you wouldn't have been able to multiply the numbers and the manufacturers could rip you off. You do not want this to happen, now do you? In conclusion, we really need math, otherwise business men and women would rip us off, big time!!

Why Is Math So Important?
by Kyra Spadaro
age 8, grade 3, Washington School, Mrs. Patolano's class,
Lodi, New Jersey, U.S.

     Math is important because you need to learn math. You can't go to a store and have no money! You see something you want in the store and see how much you need. Let's say you see something that is $4.00. You will need 4 one dollar bills. Then you can buy that thing you want. If the teacher asked you what 10 + 10 = and you didn't know the answer you don't know math! Your teacher can teach you math at school.

Math's Important - Keep It That Way!
by Jesse Chand
age 8, grade 3, Washington School, Mrs. Patolano's class,
Lodi, New Jersey, U.S.

     We need math for many things. If we didn't know math, we would get an F on our test! Then we wouldn't get a job. We would be poor with no homes. We need math about 13 percent of our whole life! We need it for cooking, painting, etc.

Money Math
by Krystal Sfreddo
age 8, grade 3, Washington School, Mrs. Patolano's class,
Lodi, New Jersey, U.S.

     We need math for a lot of things. One of the things we need math for is if we want to buy something. Another thing that we need math for is if we owe somebody money and you don't know how much you owe them. One other thing we need math for is if you need to measure something and your ruler isn't big enough.

Math's Great
by Harsharan Kaur
age 8, grade 3, Washington School, Mrs. Patolano's class,
Lodi, New Jersey, U.S.

     Math is important because when you go to a shop you need to count money and you need math so you can add, subtract or multiply. You can also do mental math, use paper, or a calculator but math is important no matter how you use it. We use math in many different subjects like science to measure, architects use it to build homes and we use math to tell time and get to school on time. My mom uses math to cook. Math is something we use every day and it is great.

by Stephanie Scrafano
age 9, grade 3, Washington School, Mrs. Patolano's class,
Lodi, New Jersey, U.S.

     Math is important because math is a subject we use every day. In most jobs you have to know how to do math. For example if you go to the store and the cashier is not an honest person and you don't know how to do math then they might take all your money and give you the wrong amount of whatever you are buying then that is very unfair. Sometimes you have to use math in other subjects like science when you are measuring things. You also use math when you are measuring the size of a room. There are many ways that you can use math. Math is a very important subject!

Why Do We Have Math?
by Jessica Benham
age 12, grade 7, St. Ignatius College, Mr. Holland's class,
South Australia, Australia

     Children get the educational privilege of mathematics to give us a wider range of careers and to increase our knowledge. If we didn't have maths, there would not be as many careers available and we wouldn't be very smart.

by Heidi Liou
age 9, grade 4, Brisas School, Elsasser's class,
Chandler, Arizona, U.S.

Math makes the world fair.

* Who judged the contest?

Wendy Petti, the mother of the Math Cats, narrowed the entries down to the top 12 finalists and 19 other Honorable Mention entries. Then the winners were chosen by three children:

* Jasmin Floyd, age 9 (you can read more about her below)
* Emily P., age 8 (who is pictured in the Math Crafts section)
* Greg Simon, age 18, a college freshman

* We're helping a special friend of Math Cats, too!

In addition to the first prize and the certificates for the winners and other finalists, Wendy of Math Cats made a donation to the IFOPA in honor of the kids who wrote the top three entries and in honor of Jasmin Floyd, one of our judges. You can learn about this worthy cause on the main contest page.

back to the main contest page

© copyright 2002 -   by Wendy Petti of Math Cats.   All Rights Reserved.