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Bright ideas from our readers: Real-life math activities

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By GreatSchools Staff

"When we had a lemonade stand, we used quarters and one dollar bills and needed to remember four quarters equals one dollar and two quarters makes half a dollar and so on.

"My daughter would like to earn some money. She's required to do chores but we pay for extras such as weeding or cleaning or helping 'babysit' her little sister when mom and dad are trying to get a home project done. She's paid in dollars or quarters (depending on the work) which gives us the double opportunity of better understanding money and fractions as well as teaching her that money doesn't grow on trees."

A good math site. One mom writes, "I am a mom of a child who has trouble in math. I found a great web site that helps with basic math facts. It is It is fun too!"

Count loose change and use old grocery receipts. The mother of an 8-year-old writes, "Our real-world math was a mixture of a couple of things. We had a jar of collected, loose change. I had her count out the amounts that we needed to be able to roll the coins and turn them in. She then counted the rolls to get the total amount to be deposited to our vacation fund.

"Prior to rolling all the change, we took some of the old receipts from the grocery and I would give her amounts to figure. For example: If I said I was buying a box of Pop-Tarts for $2.82 and I gave her $3, she would figure out how much change that would be and count that amount of change out."

One dad makes it fun. A Texas father writes, "We count cars of a certain color, and subtract one if we see two of the same color. Whoever gets one hundred first wins."

On-the-go-math at the grocery store. A mom from Georgia writes, "When I take my 7-year-old daughter to the grocery store, that's when we use a lot of real-world math. For example, last week, I asked her to figure out how much would I need to pay for four cans of tuna (they're two for $1.00). I also asked her to pick out yogurts for herself and her two sisters. They were on sale for three for $1.00. I told her that I would only spend $5.00 on yogurt. We spent about five minutes in the yogurt aisle while she's trying to stack and sort out her problem. It was such a joy to watch her stack three cups in a row and talk herself through the process. When she figured out that $5.00 can get 15 cups and each can get five cups, we both were so proud. There're a lot of other things children can do in the grocery store as well as at home, especially around the kitchen."

It doesn't get any more real than this. A mother of two in North Carolina writes, "Our children, 11 and 13, attend middle school in Indian Trail NC. Since they were old enough to understand math concepts, we have worked to incorporate learning math skills with real life and school importance. We stress the importance of doing well in school now so that they can get a better education and live a more comfortable life. We use the cost of living in a real life setting to teach our children what the ramifications are if they don't apply themselves.

For example: Not applying themselves in school now and not going to college to get a degree could ultimately land them in a minimum wage position. We break it down for them. Minimum wage is $6.15 per hour. If they work 40 hours per week, their gross pay will be ______($246.00)? Now, you need to pay tax on that money so you can assume you'll take home or "net" approximately 75% of $246.00 which = ______($184.50). Your net pay times four weeks in a month will give you what monthly income ______($738.00)? Then, there are expenses. Bills you will need to pay if you decide you are going to live on your own. If they are still living at home, the bulk of their expense will be auto related. So we break that down. Monthly car payment: $300.00 Monthly car Insurance: $200.00 Monthly gas expense @ an average of $40. Per week $200.00 Total car expense: $700.00"

Comments from readers

"My mother does time sheets so she has to do percentage and she has to add and multiply."
"My Son (Just turned four) loves to drive the cart when he is in the malls, I used this opurtunity to teach my son 'left', 'right', 'straight', 'stop'. He drives the cart and ask him to move left, right moving in between the stuff kept "
"I just wanted to say thanks to the mom whose child has trouble in math. She or he submitted a math website to give unique ideas and help for those who need it and even for additional ideas for anyone. Most all of your readers submitted their ideas, which was great. But, of course, all mentioned that their kids were bright, smart, good students, etc. That's very nice, but sometimes it sounds like these suggestions aren't suitable for children who struggle in school and the parents who struggle along with them. Being good parents, of course, they are always looking for some help, advice, and maybe even a little support from a site such as yours. It might be nice to include more websites in the area of your topic for children who need extra help - or maybe even, children who could use special help. "
"Thanks so much for all this info. I am starting to homeschool this year and was kind of nervous. But reading all these mom's and their ideas really helped ease the fear.Very helpful."