Of all the ways we can help our children with STEM, math is probably the easiest. What? “Math” and “easy” are not usually words that are used together. But math is all around us. We use it every day, most of the time without even realizing it. Here are a few fun and easy ways to help your child with their math skills this summer.
This is particularly effective for younger children, but it works with older children, too. Using a calendar or some other method, figure out how many days until a significant event over the summer – a family reunion or vacation, a holiday, a birthday, or the beginning of the new school year. Count down the days until that event. Every day you can cross a day off the calendar, making it one day closer. You can use this time to count forwards, backwards, add, subtract, divide the time left into weeks or months, etc.
Summer is a great time to help children learn the value of money. Assign a money value to extra chores you need done around the house or yard. Let children choose the jobs they want to do, then pay them for the work they accomplish. For example, my husband pays the grandkids a penny a weed to weed the garden. The young children love to bring the weeds to grandpa and collect their payment. We occasionally lose a plant or two, but it’s worth it. Once the kids get their money, teach them how to manage it. Have them put some towards a savings account (percentages can be taught here) or a vacation spending account. Let them decide how to spend the rest. Help them learn about taxes so they don’t run short of cash when it comes time to pay at the store.
Children love finding ways to make money. Lemonade stands are a childhood favorite, as are mini yard sales where children sell their old toys. I’ve had children make and sell cookies, brownies, and cupcakes. One child would draw pictures, then go door-to-door in our neighborhood selling her signed artwork. As children get older they can babysit, be a mothers helper, do yard work, wash cars, or teach classes to younger children. I’ve hired teens to teach piano and trombone lessons, my 16 year old teaches underwater robotics classes, a friend’s daughter teaches art lessons. Not only do kids learn the value of hard work, but they also have to learn how to keep track of expenses so they don’t spend more on supplies than they make from whatever they are selling.
Cooking uses lots of math. Teach your child about temperature, using timers, figuring servings, measurements (including ounces, pounds, teaspoons, cups, etc.), and fractions. Need more of a challenge? You can try doubling or tripling a recipe or cutting one in half. If your cookie recipe makes 4 dozen cookies and you want to give a dozen cookies to each of your 6 neighbors and still have some for your family, how many do you need to make? How many cups of flour are in a 5 lb. bag? If you make cookies once a week, how many bags of flour do you need to buy each month?
We use our PicoCluster for all kinds of math activities. It’s a mini computer lab for your home! Wolfram Research’s Mathmatica comes free with Raspian (like Windows for the Raspberry Pi). You can also log onto Khan Academy for fun math games and activities. Teaching children how to code also helps them with their math skills. A Python learning application comes free with every Raspberry Pi. Even when kids just play games like MineCraft, math skills are used. But don’t let the kids know. 🙂