Maths is one of those subjects that parents love to hate. It’s been a long time since we had to do maths at school, and for a lot of us, it wasn’t our favourite subject! If you don’t enjoy maths, chances are your child won’t either. Let’s break the cycle and look at everyday ways of making maths fun!
Just as you increase your child’s vocabulary and understanding of the world by talking about what you are doing or planning, you can increase your child’s grasp of maths in the same way.
Math’s isn’t just adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing (though those are certainly a big part of it), it’s also measurement, shapes, quantities, order, and so many other concepts. We’re doing maths all the time without even realising it!
Try these fun activities with your child to get them thinking about mathematical concepts.
Bake a cake
Put the packet mix back in the pantry and bake from scratch! Get the kitchen scales and let your child discover weights and measures. Some things are measured in volume, like a cup of flour or a tablespoon of cocoa powder; others by weight, like 200g of butter; and others by quantity: two eggs.
Here’s an extra step you can add just for fun…
Test the freshness of your eggs before cracking them and discover their volume! Fresh eggs will always sink in water.
Fill a large measuring jug with water to a line that is around ¾ of the way up. When you lower the egg into the water, it will ‘displace’ its volume of water and raise the level line. The difference between the two levels gives you the volume of the egg, e.g., if your water is now at the 750ml mark and the original water level was at the 700ml mark, your egg has a volume of 50ml… provided, of course, that it has sunk!
Eat the cake
See, we said we’d be making maths fun!
This is where you can introduce your child to fractions and division. When you cut a whole cake completely down the middle, you have divided it into two, and each piece is one half (1/2). The cake can be further sliced into quarters (1/4), and eighths (1/8). By moving the pieces around, you can show that two quarters is the same as one half and four eighths.
Now look at what fractions are left once you take away and eat one of the pieces!
Frequency is also a mathematical concept.
For this lesson, pick anything that happens on a daily basis, like the exact time your child goes to bed, the duration of their bath, the number of pages read in a book each night, or something fun like how many times your child says “I’m hungry” in a day.
For one week make a note of these numbers. You can plot them on a simple graph or chart if you like, but a list of the numbers – sorted into numerical order for this lesson – is all you really need. From this you can discover the mode, mean (average), median and range. This rhyme may help your child remember which is which:
Hey diddle diddle, the median’s the middle; you add and divide for the mean.
The mode is the one that appears the most, and the range is the difference between.
It might be surprising to find out how many times a day, on average, your child tells you they’re hungry!
Making maths fun when grocery shopping
Finding ways to keep the kids occupied while grocery shopping is a blessing, and the supermarket provides so many math learning opportunities.
Younger children can practice multiplication by making sure there is enough for everyone. For example, if you are a family of four, ask your child to pick out two apples per person and show them that 2 x 4 = 8. You can also introduce concepts like “twice as many” – a bag of 12 bread rolls contains twice as many as a bag of six bread rolls.
As you put items into the trolley, affirm with your child that liquids are measured in litres and solids are measured in grams. Get them to finish the sentence; “Milk is a liquid so it’s measured in… litres!” and so on. Other items, like toilet rolls, are sold in units; a pack of 4, or 8, or 12 etc.
See the way the toilet rolls are packed? A pack of 12 has toilet rolls has 3 times as many as a pack of 4 toilet rolls, but putting 3 packs of 4 toilet rolls side by side might not form the same shape as the pack of 12 because of the way they are stacked in their wrapping. The volume (amount of space the packaging takes up) is the same, but the shape is different.
Older children can really get into the concept of units by helping to decide which pack size offers the best value based on the unit cost: $1.20 per 100 gram is more than $1.10 per 100 gram – and how do you get to that figure? By dividing the total cost by the total weight. This is where your phone’s calculator comes in handy!
Children in upper primary can be tasked with planning a meal – or a week’s worth of school snacks – within a set budget. They will need to keep a close eye on the unit cost, whether there would be enough food in the pack size for everyone, and their adding up as they go.
If one train leaves the station…
Remember those seemingly illogical logic puzzles? If the train leaves Station A at 10am and travels 40km, arriving at Station B at 11am… No wonder kids think maths is hard! Add a bit of real-world context and go on a REAL journey. This is a good one for older students.
Pick a destination and use a map app to determine how many kilometres away it is, then go there and time your journey. This also works for walks and bike rides if you use an app – like Map My Walk – to calculate the total distance travelled. At your journey’s end you can calculate your average speed of travel using the formula “distance ÷ time” to get average kilometres per hour.
If you cycle 20 kilometres in 2 hours, your average speed was 10 km/h (20km ÷ 2h)
You can make it sound even more exciting by working out in minutes: 20km ÷ 120m = 0.16km/m
Or even a super-fast metres per second: 20000m ÷ 7200s = 2.78m/s!
It’s a good way to get you child thinking about time – 60 seconds in a minute, multiplied by 60 minutes in an hour, multiplied by two hours; and distance – 1000m in a kilometre, multiplied by 20km.
A little inspiration for making maths fun
Does your child know what they want to be when they leave school? How many people heave a sigh of relief when they leave school thinking all those maths classes are now behind them?
Inspire a love of maths by investigating cool careers that use mathematical concepts. Here are some ideas:
- computer games designer
- forensic analyst
- movie animator
- museum curator
- exercise physiologist
- maths teacher
Have fun learning maths!
This article was featured in Issue 53 of our printed magazine, Aug/Sept 2022.