Everyday maths for Health and Social Care and Education Support 1

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1.2 Negative numbers

So far you have only looked at positive numbers, but negative numbers are just as important. Negative numbers have a minus sign (–) in front of them.

Some examples of where negative numbers will apply to real life is with temperatures and bank balances, although hopefully our bank balances will not display too many negatives!

Perhaps you’ve seen negative numbers in weather reports where a temperature is below freezing, for example –2°C. Extreme cold weather can present a risk to life. Healthcare professionals need to be aware of when these risks could affect the patients that they are responsible for, so that they can respond accordingly.

If you ever have an overdraft at the bank, you may see minus signs next to the figures. If a bank statement reads –£30, for example, this tells you how much you’re overdrawn. In other words, what you owe the bank!

Where have you seen negative numbers recently? Look at this thermometer:

Figure 2 A nurse taking a patient’s body temperature in extreme cold weather

It shows us that:

• –10°C is a lower temperature than –5°C
• –15°C is a lower temperature than –10°C.

Hint: ‘Lower’ means ‘less than’.

The lower the temperature, the colder it is.

Activity 2: Using negative numbers in everyday life

1. The following table shows the temperatures in several cities on one day.
CityTemperature
A–2°C
B–5°C
C–1°C
D–8°C
E–3°C
• Which are the coldest and warmest cities?
1. A particular brand of ice cream includes the following note in its storing instructions:

• For best results, store in temperatures between –10°C and –6°C

If your freezer’s temperature was –11°C, would it be OK to keep this ice cream in it?

1. City D is the coldest because it has the lowest temperature. City C is the warmest because it has the highest temperature.
2. No, because –11°C is colder than the recommended range of between –10°C and –6°C. Keeping the ice cream in your freezer would probably damage the ice cream.

You have now seen how we use negative numbers in everyday life, for example bank balances and temperatures. Try practising using them when you are out and about. You will also use this skill within some simple questions that are coming up.

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