“When am I ever going to use this in real life?” Have you heard your children or someone else ask that question in regards to a math concept before? Unlike reading, writing, or PE, math is harder for children to recognize in day to day activities. Math is always there, whether they are counting the minutes until recess, the days until Christmas, or bargaining over how many pieces of broccoli they have to eat for dinner, children use math constantly though they may not realize it. Here are some fun and practical ways to sneak in some extra math practice in the everyday.
1. THE GROCERY STORE
Any parent can attest to how ‘fun’ it is to take their kids grocery shopping. Distraction is the perfect way to end the “I want...,” or “Can we please get…?” battle that inevitably seems to ensue every time we walk into a store filled with food. For younger children, have them help you count the apples, oranges, or brussel sprouts as you put them in the bag. Have them ‘help’ you spend your money wisely by asking them to identify the price of broccoli or lettuce. For older children, ask for 2lbs of oranges or apples and see if they can measure it out on those tempting hanging scales that they want to touch anyways. Have them order your meat and cheese at the deli counter, directing them on how many ounces or pounds you need. For an added treat, allow your children a certain dollar amount to pick out a special snack or juice to pack for their lunches, leaving it to them to figure out if they have enough. There are many more ways to involve your children while grocery shopping, so think practically and creatively as you browse the isles. Plus, it’s a proven fact that children who are involved in the picking out of food items are more likely to eat said food (Translation: goodbye vegetable battles).
2. THE CAR
It’s safe to say that most families spend a good amount of time in their cars driving from point A to B several times a day. Utilize this time to involve some math practice. Ask younger children to count up to ten white cars or six brown trucks. It’s also a great time to verbally practice math facts with your little ones. Ask if anyone was absent from school, and how many students were left. Run through the days of the week, what month you’re currently in, which month comes before and after, and any holidays or birthdays that are coming up. Have older children keep track of miles on the freeway or how many miles until your next exit. Older children can also help pump the gas, and bring their attention to the price per gallon and how many gallons your car can hold. Talk about how many minutes it will take to get to your destination, and see if they can guess if it’s one they are familiar with.
3. THE HOME
Since people hardly use cash or coins to pay for anything these days, the home is a great place to introduce and ‘use’ these concepts. Introduce the four main coins to little ones, what a dollar bill looks like, and how many of each can fit into the next one above it. You can even have your children ‘buy’ things from you (like a pen or toy car), and see if they can count correct change. Reverse this game by ordering pretend food from your child and having them charge you. Most parents measure their children’s heights, so go over how tall everyone in the family it, letting each child take a turn to measure someone else in the family. For extra fun, measure from hand to hand or around the belly. Baking and cooking are wonderful ways to practice measurements of liquids and solids. Children as young as three can help in this area, while children in their teens may want to jump in on the chocolate chip cookies too!
There are so many ways to utilize math in the everyday, and you don’t even have to point out that it’s happening. Chances are it won’t be as much fun if you do, and we want to create a love and deep understanding of how much we need math in our lives. This is also something you can have older siblings teach to younger ones, and by becoming the teacher of a concept it will find itself firmly rooted in their brains. Have fun with your children and make sure to make every moment count.