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BEST STARTS FOR KIDS

Learning Maths Incidentally

There are many maths learning opportunities available in routine daily life.

For example, I provided small amounts of learning opportunities on a daily basis and took advantage of routine situations as teaching opportunities, especially for mathematics.

 

WHY?

Most parents are busy. I was flat out a lot of the time so I used regular routines such as food preparation time for exposing my children to both the language of mathematics and mathematical concepts.

 Just some examples of the Mathematical Language I used while cooking were: Full, empty, more, less, half, quarters, same, how many left, take away, equals, how many altogether, lots of, etc. 

And as they 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.

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..."

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 because there are four of us so that's right. 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."

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.

 

For example.

"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 the 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?"

* * *

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.

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 advantages 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 are teaching equivalent fractions at the same time. For example: One strip of chocolate can be divided into two equal parts or four smaller parts. 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

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 will need to pitch your questions according to your child's abilities and 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 it meaningful for your child you can reinforce new concepts with real things.

"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:

Fun Maths Games 3-5 Year Olds
Fun Maths Games for 5-7 Year Olds
Fun Maths Games 7-8 Year Olds
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Beginning Mathematics
Children learn incidentally
The Importance of Counting
Tuna Pesto Pasta
The True Value of Routines
Dad providing a role model for brushing his teeth
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