BEST STARTS FOR KIDS
Learning Maths Incidentally
There are many maths learning opportunities available in routine daily life.
Including your children while cooking, gardening or building utilizes your time well and can:
expose children to the language of mathematics and mathematical concepts in meaningful ways
reinforce new knowledge, with real items, making it more likely to be retained
utilize your time well and gives you an understanding of their learning levels
Mathematical Language Full, empty, more, less, half, quarters, same, how many left, take away, equals, how many altogether, lots of, etc.
And as my children got older I introduced even more specific terminology such as: plus, minus, increase, decrease, times, multiply, solution, divide, total, remainder, etc
If you're cooking a meal with children you have many opportunities to teach maths concepts because you're using real things to reinforce them with mathematical language.
Lets look at preparing a simple meal of meat and five types of vegetables.
While preparing the food you can provide simple opportunities for comparison of size, counting, multiplication, division and fractions.
"Altogether we need four middle-sized potatoes to cut up." You and your child can work out which are the middle-sized ones. This creates an interesting discussion in itself about smaller, longer, wider, shorter, bigger, biggest, smallest, etc
Continuing on: "I'm going to cut each potato in half... So if I have four potatoes and they've been each cut into two pieces that makes four lots of two... And when I put them altogether that makes eight pieces...
Reinforce the concepts with real items
Now Dad wants three pieces of potato and I want three pieces of potato too." Make the examples. "That means 2 lots of three potatoes for us... And that equals how many altogether?' Put the two amounts of potatoes together. "There are some left over." Point to the remaining two pieces of potato. That means there is one piece of potato for you and one for your brother. Is that enough for you or do you need more?"
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You can add more people and differing vegetables as your child becomes more capable as the example below illustrates.
For example children can cut beans into two equal pieces with a butter knife (if you're supervising them) saying that both parts need to be the same size or fair sized.
Again you can reinforce this with mathematical terminology. "You cut it in half. But if you put it back together you have a whole one again..."
Phraseology: whole and fractions
Take one half of the bean. "Now if you cut each piece in half again then you'll have quarters. Put them all back together again and you've got a whole bean again. Now see here that two quarters equals a half a bean. And four quarters equals a whole bean."
You can substitute a variety of vegetables and fruit as their abilities increase.
Looking at the concept of fairness is a great one to underpin the concept of division because children are very good at picking discrepancies, especially if they're the one receiving less.
Something as simple as dividing up pizza can be a great way of introducing mathematical language.
Half, quarters and eighths are really easy to illustrate and show the concepts of parts of a whole and also equivalent fractions.
For example: "First of all we're going to cut our pizza in half. See there are two pieces. But that's no use because there are four of us. And the pieces are too big to eat that way. So let's cut each piece in half again. Now that's four pieces and they're all the same so it's fair. We call each of those pieces a quarter. And if we push them back together they make one whole pizza... But the pieces are still too big. Let's cut the pieces in half again. Now we've cut our pizza into eight pieces. Each one of these parts is called an eighth. And if we put it all back together it's one whole pizza again. And the pieces are all the same size so it's fair."
Phraseology: equivalent fractions
Arrange the pieces " Now if Daddy has two eights and I have two eighths. That means half of the pizza is gone already. How much is left for you and your brother? If it's going to be fair how many pieces will you each get? That's right you'll each get two eights. So if we take yours away how much is left for your brother. Its two eighths or a quarter. So two eights and a quarter are the same thing.'
You can adapt the language you use according to the age and interest of your children. But if you're dividing a popular food equally your child's interest is naturally going to be high.
And the biggest advantage of incorporating mathematics into your meal preparation is that you're doing it anyway. And you do it regularly.
The division of chocolate is another great way of illustrating fractions and because they have to be fair amounts, you're teaching equivalent fractions at the same time. For example: One strip of chocolate can be divided into two equal parts or four smaller ones. Yet if you put them back together, they make one strip again. See if your child can divide the parts fairly and use the appropriate terminology. The possibilities are endless.
And as your children grow you can extend this with written recipes where you are using fractions as an integral part of the process. Here again you can extend your child's language of comparison.
And you can show the way the text is recorded on the page reinforcing to your child that text contains meaning. And you can identify some of the numerals used in a recipe.
You could compare and contrast similarly sized spoons or containers to order them according to capacity. Or put those that hold the same volume together.
There are also many mathematical opportunities available for a child while working on a building project with mum or dad. Or while working in the garden.
You'll need to pitch your questions according to your child's abilities. Then stage them over years beginning with simple counting activities to five, then ten, then twenty, then thirty, then one hundred, then one thousand.
And to help make maths more meaningful for your child, you can reinforce new concepts using real things in real life situations.
"Can you please pass me three of the longest nails..." Comparison
"How many nails do I have left?" Subtraction
"I need fifteen screws, do I have enough?" Real Counting
"Do I have more nails or more screws left?"
Conservation of Number
"How many pots/ seeds do I have?" Counting
"We need to plant four seeds in each pot. How many lots of four are there?"
Extension example: "That means five lots of four equals twenty." Multiplication
"I have twenty seeds. If I put two seeds in each pot. How many pots can I fill?" Division
For more mathematical ideas and fun learning maths games go to:
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