You might be concerned about keeping your middle school student’s math skills sharp during summer break. Encourage your child to apply math skills taught during the school year to situations at home with a little creativity and persistence.
Planning a Garden
A trip to your local dollar store for garden supplies can yield a summer full of math opportunities. If you have the space outside, encourage your student to use geometry and measurement skills to plan and create a garden. If not, you can designate a portion of the kitchen (or a sunny location in the house or on a balcony) for your child to grow plants.
Measuring soil, counting seeds and calculating area needed to grow plants are effective ways to apply geometry and measurement skills. Once your seeds begin to sprout, measuring them, recording their progress and computing the costs involved for water and other materials will encourage your child to analyze data and solve math problems involving rate and unit rate.
To expand on this activity, give your child a gardening catalogue and work together to plan a dream garden, figuring cost and measurements for details such as landscape materials (plants, rocks, etc.) and a garden shed.
Handling the Groceries
Your child might be interested in what you bring home, but do you share the mathematical side of grocery shopping with your child? Grocery shopping can be a mathematical journey, particularly if you take advantage of reward points, coupons and sales.
Ask your child to create the grocery list each week and teach your child to work within a budget to get the best prices for the items on the list. Increase incentive to save money by offering a portion of the savings as a reward. Between grocery ads, coupons and money-saving apps for your phone or tablet, budgeting for and buying groceries is a great real-life application of mathematical concepts such as unit rate, percent and general problem solving skills.
If the grocery shopping goes well, you can expand your child’s responsibilities to include other parts of the family budget, such as entertainment, clothing and gas.
Experimenting in the Kitchen
If your child sighs and wonders why fractions are necessary, it’s time to start working together in the kitchen. Even if you don’t have much time to cook, preparing a meal together each day yields plenty of opportunities to measure, estimate, work with rate and use fractions. Even the nutrition labels on packages of food provide a wealth of topics for mathematical problems and discussions; serving sizes vs actual portion sizes, percentage of daily values, and distribution of calories are just a few items on the nutrition label that can bring some of those mathematical topics to life for your child.
Following recipes is also beneficial, particularly if the recipe has to be cut in half or doubled to make the right amount of food for your family. Take a few minutes as you work together to compute the fraction problems on paper, so that your child will feel comfortable actually using fraction concepts when school starts again in the fall.
If you look around at the parts of your own life that involve math skills, you’ll find plenty of at home opportunities to build those math skills with your child—with the added benefit of spending time together and helping your child grow into an independent adult.