Helping Your Child See the Math Connections in Everyday Life

Imagine a day without math. Easy, you are probably thinking. I don’t use math often. Just people like engineers and accountants use math.

Think about the money you spent at the drive thru this morning getting your coffee, then while you were grocery shopping, you were estimating how much money you were spending. You prepared a meal from a recipe for dinner and figured out what time you would need to start it in order to have dinner on the table for 6:00. Guess what? You just used math in the forms of money, estimating, fractions, and elapsed time.  

It’s not so easy to think about a day without math, is it? 

Math is all around us. Children need to have the opportunity to see this. They need to have opportunities to explore how math is essential and applicable to everyday living. Teachers help make connections for students is by integrating other subject areas into the math classroom. The Ontario Mathematics Curriculum: Grades 1-8 (http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/math18curr.pdf) states that “In integrated learning, students are provided with opportunities to work towards meeting expectations from two or more subject within a single unit, lesson or activity. By linking expectations from different subject areas, teachers can provide students with multiple opportunities to reinforce and demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a range of settings. Also, the mathematical process expectation that focuses on connecting, encourages students to make connections between mathematics and other subject areas.” Students need to be able to make connections between the learning in school to their everyday lives. This is why the curriculum has less of a focus on memorizing facts and equations, and more on problem solving and critically thinking about mathematical concepts. You can extend this learning at home by making connections between activities you are doing and the math concepts. 

As a parent, you can help your child make these connections by doing everyday things and showing your child how math is involved. When children are consciously made aware of the math that occurs in daily life, they will become more engaged in learning math concepts. There are easy things that you can do to help your children engage in math learning through problem solving and critical thinking. It just takes a few minutes for you to think about the things you are doing and the ways that you can show your child the math concepts appropriate for him/her. 

Here are some ways you can make math connections for your child (and have fun while doing it!):

* While out on a walk, encourage your child to find patterns in nature. Depending on the age, the more complicated the pattern they could find. Young children could find a colour pattern or a shape pattern. Older children could explore the Fibonacci pattern in flowers. (More information on: http://www.maths.surrey.ac.uk/hosted-sites/R.Knott/Fibonacci/fibnat.html#plants

* Getting kids in the kitchen to make food from recipes is a great way to help them gain a practical understanding of fractions and spatial sense. Doubling or tripling a recipe requires adding fractions, and determining what size bowl to use develops spatial sense. This also promotes healthy eating, as when children are in the kitchen preparing the food, they are more likely to eat it (see http://www.nourishinteractive.com/healthy-living/free-nutrition-articles/149-cook-with-kids-benefits for more information and ideas). 

* Algebra always seems like a foreign concept to children, but believe it or not, we use it regularly. For example, if you were trying to figure out how many hamburgers to buy for a party, and you knew that you wanted 2 hamburgers for every adults and 1 hamburger for every child, and an extra 3 just in case, you could use this algebraic equation to solve it: 2a +1c +3= __, where a= the number of adults, and c= the number of children. Then, you need to figure out how many packages of buns you need to buy, as they come in packages of 8. This is a great example of division with remainders, and what remainders really mean (e.g. You need 21 buns. They come in packages of 8, so 21/8=2R5. So, do you only need 2 bags? But then 5 people won’t have a bun. So, you need 3 bags, and you will have 3 left over).  

* Budgeting for any large purchase you are going to make is another way that older children can get involved to make math meaningful to them. For example, if you are going to redo the décor in their room, you could give them a budget, and have them itemize the prices for each item they want in the room. This gives them a good practical sense of how much things actually cost, gives them practice estimating, and doing simple

operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication) with decimals. 

* Along the same lines of budgeting, is price matching. This is becoming more and more popular, and teaches children a useful life skill, along with applying their math skills. You could make an incentive for your child that for every $5 he/she saves you by price matching, you will give him/her $2. There are apps that make this really easy to find items, or you can use flyers. Just check with your local supermarket to ensure they price match. 

* Some children are very focused on the fact that they want to do something in the future that they don’t feel math has any role in, so they aren’t motivated or engaged in learning math. For these children, it is great to get them looking into the courses that they will need to take in order to earn their degree/diploma in that area, or research the career more to figure out what is actually required in that position. Once they see the math behind the career, they will be more motivated to excel in math so they can go into this profession in the future. For some examples of math in basketball, special effects, music production, fashion and video game creation, explore this site with your child: http://www.thirteen.org/get-the-math/

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