I recently went to a summer craft show and farmer’s market.
One father was selling homemade cakes and cookies. He had his
eight year old son helping him. He wanted his son to handle the
money, adding up the purchases and making change. It was not
very complicated because nothing cost more than $2.75. The son
could not do it. He did not know how to make change of $5.00 on
a $2.75 purchase. The boy seemed bright enough and I suspect
could have solve that problem if it had appeared in his math
workbook page at school. The father must have understood this
and was taking advantage of a unique summer opportunity to give
his son this concrete experience. It was an experience the son
would not have in school.
Summertime presents many opportunities for parents to teach
math concepts. One thing you can do is take your child shopping
with you. Give yourself time to make it a learning
experience. Ask your child which box of cereal is the best to
buy. What are the ingredients? How much does each one cost?
Which one costs more? Does the bigger box contain more cereal?
What about unit pricing. Plan on only spending a certain
amount of money shopping and let the child estimate if you are
keeping within your limit. Let him or her count up the change.
Obviously this takes more time than a quick shopping trip on
your own but it probably does not take as much time as helping
a child with a workbook page and there are more fringe benefits.
Driving in a car gives you the opportunity of having your
child solve interesting math problems. How long does it take to
go 90 miles at 55 miles an hour? How much gas do we need and do
we save money if we buy premium rather than regular gas? You can
have your child act as navigator and give you directions from the
map. Children can be involved in all aspects of planning for a
vacation by car. Do not lose this exceptional educational
opportunity because you feel it is too time consuming. The pay
off is worth the time spent.
You can have a whole dinner conversation in which you do all
of your mathematical figuring using base 8 instead of base l0.
You can also try some logic games. A cup and saucer together
weigh twelve ounces. The cup weighs twice as much as the saucer.
How much does the saucer weigh? Or a man owned 11 cars . When
he died he asked that his 11 cars be divided among his three
sons. Half of the cars were to go to the eldest son, a fourth to
the middle son, and a sixth to the youngest. How can this be
One of the best teaching aids for beginners in math is card
games. Not only are they educational but they provide many hours
of pleasant interaction. Card games help build language, motor
skills, social skills, visual memory , numerical sequence,
computation and number concept. I will name just a few that you
may have forgotten. Slap Jack, Spit, Casino, Black Jack, Fish,
Hearts, War, Concentration, Indian Poker, and Rummy.
One card game I enjoy is called “The Earl of
Coventry”. Children from five to twelve enjoy playing it. All of
the cards are dealt out. The first player plays any card. Each
player must play a card of the same denomination or pass. As the
first player plays his card, he says, “Here’s a
“_________”(naming the card) as good as can be.” The next player
says, “Here’s another as good as he” The third says, “Here’s the
best of all the three” And the last says, “And here’s the Earl of
Coventry. The player who plays the fourth card takes in the cards
and leads the next card beginning the rhyme again. You can make
up your own rhyme. For example: “I’m giving you my favorite
three.” “Here’s another for you from me” “Here is mine as you
can see” “And here’s the Earl of Coventry.”
There are many books available to make learning fun and a
family affair. The books by Martin Gardner are good and your
librarian can help you with other titles. The book for the use
of playing cards in teaching and learning is by Margie Golick and
is entitled, “Deal Me In.”
I encourage you to try these and other creative ways
to interact with your children this summer. Keep in mind,
however, that some of the best times are just quiet moments with
your children. Relax and enjoy them and your summer.