As I began a daily math lesson in my third grade classroom several years ago, an outspoken boy declared, “I’m going to be a lawyer when I grow up. I don’t need to know math."
I noticed that a few other students nodded timidly. It hit me that many children and even some adults don’t realize how much math is part of our daily lives. They understand that reading is necessary, but math?
That evening for homework, I scrapped the planned assignment and gave them two questions to answer: What job does your parent have? How does your parent use math in his/her job?
The next morning we sat in a circle and took turns sharing the answers. We discovered that math is everywhere! No matter what kind of work you do, math is used somehow.
Summer is a perfect time to practice a variety of math concepts in a fun and relevant way. Start by showing your child how you use math in your job and around the house.
Shop until You Drop
Together, check your local newspaper or online for coupons offering cents off your favorite foods. At the grocery store, put your child in charge of finding the products and presenting the coupons at checkout.
Each time you do this coupon activity, put the money you saved into a jar or piggy bank. Use the money, which the child can practice counting, for a special activity at the end of the summer.
Give your child a specific dollar amount, such as $10. Your child must plan a meal that costs 10 dollars or less. Use the weekly grocery ads to plan before going to the store.
Play a guessing game with coins! Say things like, “I have five coins that equal 31cents. What coins do I have?" and “Show me the least amount of coins that equals 47 cents."
Whether you are just running errands or going on a long trip in the car, it is a great time to practice mental math.
Choose a two-digit number and ask your child to count backwards from that number.
Think of a two-digit number and ask your child to guess what it is by saying “higher" or “lower" until they reach the right number.
Choose a target number and tell it to your child. Then say, “Add three." Your child has to do the problem mentally. Continue giving the child numbers to add or subtract from the target number.
It’s About Time
Check movie times in the paper and decide which show time works for you. How much time does it take to get to the theater? Calculate when you should leave.
Do the same thing when the child is waiting for a show to be on TV. How much time do we need to wait until the show is on?
Write down how much time you spent on all of your daily activities: sleeping, eating, playing, reading, swim lessons, etc.
Use a plain white paper plate to make a pie chart to show the segments of time that you did each activity.
Alternatively, you can make a bar graph showing the same information.
Weather or Not
Use a calendar to mark the morning or evening temperatures each day. Is it getting warmer or cooler? Convert the temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius using a conversion calculator.
Using the calendar every day gives them the sense of time. Mark the date of a special upcoming event so the child can see how the time is passing until the event. You may hear less of “Are we going yet?"
Shake It Up!
Roll dice and add or subtract the numbers. Roll three dice to do some harder addition.
Roll dice and multiply.
Bake a cake, cupcakes or muffins and ask your child to measure the ingredients.
Next, double the recipe. Can your child double the ingredients?
Make a pizza and cut it in eight equal pieces. Talk about how many pieces are in the whole pizza. That would be the denominator or bottom number of the fraction. Then ask how many pieces you want to eat. Let’s say two pieces. That would be the top number or numerator. So the fraction would be 2/8. Then look at the pizza and observe that 2/8 is the same as 1/4.
Bored or Board?
Play some games that reinforce math concepts.
- Rummikub: Challenging for kids and adults, involves consecutive numbers, colors and sets
- Sumoku: fun practice of addition and multiplication
- Connect Four: Strategy and patterns
- Head Full of Numbers: Fast fun, single player or group, making equations in addition and subtraction and later can be used for multiplication and division
- Clumsy Thief: Fast paced and funny. Involves strategy, addition and money