Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Practicing Math Through Everyday Activities

Sometimes, the best learning occurs when children don’t even realize it’s happening.  With a little creativity, parents and caretakers can help even very young children practice math skills during everyday activities. Here are some ideas: 

Practice estimation. Play games in which you and your child guess how many of a given object there are (pennies in your hand, apples in a bowl, books on a shelf) then count to determine who was closer. Be sure your child can see all of the objects when estimating; guessing how many M&Ms are in a bag won’t help him/her develop a number sense. Also, for young children, it’s best to start with relatively small numbers of objects – no more than the child can easily count.

Bake something. Using measuring cups is a great way to expose children to fractions. Ask older children to halve or double the recipe for more advanced practice. Also, take advantage of food that is typically sliced, like pizza. Next time your family orders one, count the slices with your child and figure out what portion of the pie everyone should have. 

Clock events. Take advantage of the stopwatch on your mobile phone. How many total minutes of commercials are there during a favorite show? Which route is fastest for getting to school? Can your child get from Point A to Point B faster by running or skipping? How much faster?

Measure things of interest. Help your child measure the height of various family members, including the family pet! Record the height of a new houseplant every few days and record its growth. Challenge your child to find the longest book, blanket, or carpet in the house. Have an informal long jump competition!

Demonstrate multiplication. Explain that each member of the family should get two pieces of chicken for dinner and help your child figure out how many pieces should be put onto the serving platter. If each wall of a Lego house requires 8 pieces, ask your child how many pieces are needed altogether.

Demonstrate division. Help your child divide grapes for a snack, pencils for school, or cookies for friends so that everyone gets the same amount. 

Count money. In situations that allow for leisurely counting, like when paying at the end of a meal in a restaurant, help your child count out the bills that correspond with the amount on the receipt. Or give your child their allowance in coins or small bills, then tell them you need to break a larger bill and help them make change for you.

image courtesy of Daily Clip Art

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