Kids bored already? Multiply summer fun with math


I have a math challenge for you: What do you get when you add “X” number of kids plus “Y” weeks of summer, then subtract quiet moments before multiplying by the number of times you hear, “I’m bored!”?

The answer? A perfect opportunity to have fun with math at home!

Summer is a stretch that can equal math-learning losses, but it need not be. I teach a college-level statistics course, and if I had a nickel for every time a student said he or she hated math, I would have … well, it would involve a large calculation.

Math anxiety is a communicable disease, and the cure is fun with real-life math. The goal with summer math, however, is not an endless stack of worksheets. Rather, summer provides the opportunity to play with math concepts in everyday life.

Here are some fun math activities to try at home. Each activity is connected to the third-grade math standards for Arizona students found on the Arizona Department of Education website. For parents of children in pre-K through second grade, the third-grade standards can serve as a guide for what’s coming up. Providing real-life experiences long before it’s time to master them can help students really understand math.

Get cooking

A third-grade math standard says students will be able to “explain equivalence of fractions in special cases, and compare fractions by reasoning about their size.” That doesn’t sound especially fun, but what does is making cookies with your child.

My favorite oatmeal cookie recipe calls for 1½ cups of flour. Pretend that you can’t find the one-cup measure, and then ask your child what to do. Cobble together the flour using half- and quarter-cups, and talk about how three half-cups (3 x ½, or 3/2) equals 1½ cups.

Multiplication makes an appearance in the third-grade math curriculum. When putting cookies on the tray, talk about the rows and columns. “I have four rows of three cookies each. How many all together?” Count the cookies one by one and then talk about whenever you have four groups of three (or 4 x 3), the total will be 12.

Use your noodle

Pool noodle, that is, as a measuring tool. In third grade, students learn about finding perimeter. To find the perimeter of the pool, count how many noodles it takes to go around the pool. A noodle is what is called a nonstandard measure. But, if your child can use a noodle now, a tape measure later is an easy transition.

If your pool is a rectangle, talk about how knowing two adjacent sides of the rectangle is all you need to know its perimeter. The formula for the perimeter of a rectangle is 2A + 2B. In other words, 2 x (the long side) plus 2 x (the short side) = the perimeter of your pool. If your pool is kidney-shaped, measure any other square or rectangle, such as your patio or living room. Now that’s using your noodle!

See the world

Clicking off the miles on a long road trip is the perfect division playground. For a nine-hour road trip with three children and one iPad, each child will have a total of three hours of technology: 9/3 = 3. The trip to Disneyland is 400 miles. If we divide the trip into two parts, after how many miles should we stop for lunch?

Place value means looking at the number 18 and realizing it means one 10 and eight ones. Instead of playing Slug Bug (who ever thought a game that involves punching someone at the sight of a Volkswagen Beetle was a good idea?), keep a tally of how many red cars are spotted during a long road trip. Instruct your child to circle the tallies when 10 are spotted, and start a new set of tallies. When you reach your destination, count the circled tallies by 10s and add any leftover tallies. So, three circles (or 10s) and four tallies equals 34 red cars.

Shop ’til you’re a math whiz

In third grade, students are expected to “solve word problems involving money through $20.” The next time you are shopping, reserve a portion of the cart for your child, and give your child a $20 bill to pay for some of the groceries. Together, add items to your child’s portion of the cart until you’re up to about $18 worth (to leave room for tax and some change). When it comes time to check out, have your child pay for his or her groceries and process how the cost of groceries plus the change given equals $20.

You might be doing some counting of your own come July, such as, “How many more days until school starts?” In the meantime, divide the long days of summer with multiples of math fun.