Summer Math Activities
Summer is the PERFECT time for real-life math applications! No equations necessary. It’s perfectly fine to stick to mental math. (It’s more important than you’d think!) Anyway, it’s always a good idea for children to see that we’re not making them add and subtract as a form of torture. There are actual, true-to-life uses for the math we teach them.
- I mentioned giving your child an allowance while traveling, but you don’t have to wait until then. For most kids, money math is as real as it gets. Talk to your child about budgets. Encourage them to spend half and save half, or set aside a dollar each time he or she gets an allowance. Encourage him or her to find something he or she wants to save up for, then figure out how much he or she will need.
- In my last post, I mentioned the exchange rate and foreign currency. A fun summer activity when you’re not traveling, might be to look at the value of the dollar in different countries. Your child can plan a fantasy trip based on where they’ll get the most “bang” for their buck.
- Cook with your kids. Most of us aren’t likely to use the oven much in the summer, but there are plenty of no-heat cooking activities you can do. Make popsicles or fresh-squeezed lemonade. Help your child read the recipe and measure ingredients. As a warm-weather bonus, you could practice measuring as a form of water play. Get out those cups and spoons and see if three teaspoons actually does make one tablespoon!
- Keep track of the daily temperature. Believe it or not, reading a thermometer is a math skill. Even if you just check the temperature once a day, that’s practice. You could even make a deal: you only have popsicles on days that reach 100 degrees. That’ll have them checking the thermometer several times a day, I promise! If you want to take it to the next level, help your child make a graph of the temperatures for the week. If the temperatures vary wildly, talk about what time of day they looked at the thermometer and discuss whether or not that might make a difference. Ask your child to predict what the temperature will be the next day.
- Gardening activities incorporate both math and science. If you don’t already have a garden in or around your home, make one with your child. If space is a problem, try a container garden. Buy seeds and let your child plant them x number of inches apart and x inches deep in the soil, as directed by the seed packet. Plants usually require a certain number of hours of shade v. sunlight, so scope out your yard. I love this post about determining the sun exposure in your garden, probably because it appeals to the graph-maker in me. Flowers are great, but the children I know tend to prefer plants they can eventually eat. (Good small space ideas: strawberries and lettuces. For larger areas, corn and pumpkins are great. The former because they’ll love helping “pollenate” the corn and the latter for obvious Halloween-related reasons.) Let your child know how often he or she needs to water. Seed packets usually give an estimated amount of time between planting and germination. Help your child keep track of the passage of time on a calendar so you can see how accurate the estimate was.
- Let them measure anything and everything. I always say, “Give a child a yardstick and you give him the world.” Kids love to measure. They’ll do it and report back to you that the kitchen table is 53 inches long, the couch is 79, etc. It’s worth mentioning that accuracy isn’t the point here–it’s the process. If they tell you the table is 84 inches long, you’re welcome to exaggerate your disbelief and ask them to prove it to you. Telling them they’re wrong because you know your dining room isn’t big enough to fit a seven-foot table may dampen their enthusiasm. But if you do it together, that’s a horse of a different color.
- Clock math is also good for the summer, especially since kids have so much free time. Also, plenty of adults struggle with reading analog clocks, so I think it’s work that should get a lot of reinforcement. Also, kids want to know “when?” more than they want to know anything else. “When is Bobby coming over?” “When can we have popsicles?” “When are my swimming lessons?” Show them what the clock will look like when Bobby comes over. Write or draw it on a piece of paper so they can check for themselves. (It’ll also save you the repeated questioning!)
- One of my finds this summer was a restaurant game called Mon Restaurant:
- Mon Restaurant is a French product. However, the text is in English and Spanish as well as French. The prices on the menu are in Euro and so is the play money, which doesn’t bother me since I consider it a good thing for my students to be exposed to foreign currencies, but is worth noting. The kit has the bones one needs to create a restaurant game–a selection of menus to slip in the menu folder, a collection of restaurant signs, including reserved and no smoking(!) signs, a fake credit card, blank checks, order forms, a rather flimsy tablecloth and napkins, and–the crème de la crème–l’addition, an itemized bill. I’ve played this game with children from four to ten and I can tell you that it appeals across the ages. Playing restaurant has universal allure. Having bought the kit, I think it would be easy to create on one’s own, with supplies you have at home and a quick trip to a stationary supply store. Alternatively, just search “play money” on Pinterest and plenty of ideas–from printing checks to Minion play money to fake credit cards. While I can understand printing checks and I’d probably spend wayyyy too much time designing credit cards with my students’ names on them, I’ll probably splurge on store-bought play money. The play feels more realistic if the bills and coins are two-sided. I like this set from Melissa & Doug because of the wooden box for neat clean up. To expand on restaurant play:
- Make your own menus and then help your child to determine the prices of the items on the menu. Chances are, he or she won’t have much of a frame of reference. If you have takeout menus at home, get them out. If you don’t, get online and look at them with your child (or print them out). Encourage them to check out prices on the menus when you eat out.
- Talk to your child about tipping (what it is and why it’s important) and show them the tricks you use to calculate how much to leave. Do you double the tax? Do you calculate ten percent and then double that? Encourage them to help you figure this out when dine out, too.
- For older children, you can start to discuss cost v. profitability. For example, if your child wants to sell frozen chocolate dipped bananas at his restaurant, he will only make a profit if he charges more than the cost of the material. It’s entirely likely that your child may want to charge $100 per chocolate dipped banana, which is a good time to introduce the idea of the competitive marketplace. Also, to point out that people would be more likely to make a chocolate dipped banana at home than pay so much at his/her restaurant.
I hope that I’ve given you plenty of ideas for Summer Enrichment. If you missed either of my previous posts, please feel free to check them out!