The most wonderful time of the year is here once again, and with holiday cheer come many lighthearted opportunities for math learning!
Math can be intimidating, but it won’t be if we realize that it’s just a way of describing what we do in life.
The key to word-problems (some call them story problems) is to make it real to the child. If he thinks it is a math problem, he’ll be stumped. If he is simply figuring out what he needs in his own life, he can figure it out. In other words, make the math about what he is interested in and you’ll find that math just isn’t that tough!
You need not be intimidated! Even if you think you’re “not good at math,” you’re probably better than you think. Try some of these things and see how you can help your child have fun with math.
Eat pizza. There is nothing better than pizza to start figuring out fractions. How many pieces are in this pizza? Eight! So how many can we each have since there are four of us? So if we each get two eighths, how many fourths is that? For a younger child, we can start with the idea of “half.” We got two pizzas – how much would you get if you got half of the pizzas? What if we had three pizzas?
Play store. Do you lament how the clerk can’t make change without a register? Get out some change and let your child buy breakfast! Today’s cereal costs 37 cents, and tomorrow’s yoghurt may be 78 cents. Once she gets good at counting out the correct amount, you can start buying from her and getting change back from your dollar.
Spend time in the kitchen. Four tablespoons make a quarter cup, four quarter cups in a cup, two cups in a pint, two pints in a quart… you get the idea. You might try your hand at baking a little – double the recipe, cut it in half, whatever. Just exercise with those fractions so they aren’t such a mystery when he sees them at school.
Have a party. Everybody loves a party, and your child is no exception. Any time you’ll be having guests, have your child help you plan for them. For our Christmas party we’ll have 10 guests. We should plan on three cookies for each guest, so how many cookies will we need? One recipe makes 12 cookies – how many recipes will we need to bake? Each guest should have two 8-ounces glasses of juice, so how many glasses is that? How many ounces? Gallons?
Count ants. You will need to kill them, of course, but before you get out the spray, why not make some predictions with your daughter? Count how many ants cross a crack in one minute. So now predict how many would cross in an hour. Wow, is that a lot of ants!
Estimate. That’s a nice jar. I wonder how many m&m’s it would hold. Estimate. Now put in enough m&m’s to cover the bottom of the jar. How many are there, and how many layers would it take to fill the jar? Estimate again.
Measure. How big is this room? How many Haydens wide is it? Have Hayden lay down with his feet against the wall. Now place a penny on the floor at the top of his head. Have him lay down again, this time with the penny at the bottom of his feet, and repeat until you find out how many Haydens wide the room is. For a young student, this is enough. For an older student, how tall is Hayden, so how wide is the room – in feet? For yet an older student, you can find out how many square feet the room is.
Bottom line: Don’t do math – just do life. Sneak math in every day – just don’t call it math!