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I think you already know what this post is about. I mean, there are so many ways to talk about math in the grocery store it just seems too obvious. But in case you need to be reminded, I’ll give you a few ideas today.
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The produce aisle is my favorite place to get the kids involved with shopping. Counting and weighing are fun.  Our regular grocery store has the traditional scales which the kids love, and someday I’ll take them to the fancy store that has digital scales – you know the kind that prints out a price sticker for you? Those are awesome. Buying produce is also a great opportunity to introduce estimation and talk about money. And how about the added benefit of seeing what all those fruits and veggies look like and learning their names! Here are some produce aisle activities for kids of all ages:

 ·   Eat an apple a day? Let your child count out the apples (pears, plums, etc.) and put them in the basket/bag themselves. If you buy an apple a day for more than one person in the house, let your child figure out how many apples that amounts to.

·    Examine all the different types of apples (or other fruit) and their prices. Have your child tell you which variety of apple is the most expensive and which is the cheapest.  How much is your family’s favorite apple?

·    When bagging fruits and veggies, try to guess how much your bag weighs then put it on the scale and see who came closest.

·    We have a couple of watermelon freaks in our family, so this time of year we get one (and often 2) every week.  Have a contest to guess which watermelon is the heaviest. You might not be able to weigh it exactly, but it’s fun trying to find the biggest one. If your kids can’t handle a watermelon, try it with cantaloupe or honeydew.  

·    Once you know how much your selection weighs, try to guess how much it will cost. You don’t have to be exact, because this is a good chance to talk about estimation. If grapes are $2.49 per pound and you have a little over 2 pounds, explain how you can guess the price (“about five dollars”).  After you check out, look at the receipt to see exactly how much those grapes cost.

By the way, do you call it a grocery store or a supermarket? I find “grocery store” comes more easily to me these days, but I think I used to say “market” or “supermarket” and I don’t remember when or how that changed. Maybe it depends on where you live, and since I consider myself “bi-coastal” I am comfortable with both terms.  Anyway, I know the grocery store (or supermarket, depending on your region) is not always the best place to bring kids, but if you must have them tagging along remember to make the most of your shopping trip and take a minute or two to practice some math! π

 
If you expected "Season End" to refer to Winter you'd be mistaken. Highs in the 30's and chill-me-to-the-bone rain still feels like winter to me, even if the calendar says tomorrow is April. It's been a long, annoying winter..........anyway on to the fun stuff!

You may have noticed I mention swim practice here and there. Our swim season ended last week. No more practices…sniff sniff… NOT. The kids are thrilled, because let’s face it winter swim is a long grueling season and they are just plain burned out! Swim team has been a big part of our life for the past 7 months, for better or worse, so I thought it fitting to sit back and reflect on the kids’ accomplishments.
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We summarized our swim season at the dinner table using the “back of the envelope” method, literally. I don’t expect you to be able to read that though.

Swim practices started back on September 14, 2010, so the kids were at it for 27 weeks. For most of the season we attended 3 practices per week. There were a few weeks we only made 1 or 2 practices due to sickness, holidays, swimmers ear, bad weather, etc. We also attended two meets (yes, only 2 all season, so what!?) in addition to the practices.

We decided to estimate the total number of practices (we’re getting good at estimation now!). Let’s see if I can decipher the envelope… out of 27 weeks we said there were 4 weeks when we only attended 2 practices, so 27 – 4 = 23 (thanks Wanda).

23 weeks times 3 practices per week = 69 practices (good job Bart). Add those (estimated) 4 weeks when we only went 2 times to make 8 more practices:

69 + 8 = 77 practices (impressive!)

Then we subtracted 2 more practices because honestly there were probably a couple other times we skipped. So, 75 practices.

Next we tried to figure out how many laps were swum (swam?) during each practice. Bart and Wanda had no idea but fortunately I had observed at Monday’s session that the kids did about 10 laps every 15 minutes, so we used that number.   Each practice is at least 45 minutes long (sometimes longer). Bart helped us calculate that 10 laps every 15 minutes for 45 minutes is 30 laps per practice. I think it’s a conservative estimate, but 30 is a nice number to work with.

OK stay with me, just a couple more calculations:

30 laps per practice X 75 practices = 2250 laps.

Each lap is 25 meters, amounting to 2250 X 25 = 56,250 meters (had to use a calculator there). Phew!

If there are 1609 meters in a mile, how many miles did these kids each swim since September?!

“I don’t really care” was one reply. He just wanted me to stop talking and get some dessert I’m sure.

Anyway, these guys swam about 35 miles since September, which is about the distance from here to Philadelphia! That little fact got their attention. So, how many miles did you swim when you were 7 years old?  How about when you were 5?!  

They weren’t overly excited about the results of our calculations, but in my eyes this is a considerable accomplishment and I’m proud that they stuck it out all fall and winter. I think it’s important to recognize the hard work they put in all season, and even though they are sick of swimming for now, I commend them for making it through with minimal complaints. 

Sports provides parents so many excuses to talk about math with our kids. Regardless of your child's sport, I'm sure you can think of some way to quantify their achievements and recognize their hard work (and if you can't think of an example send me an email with your kid's sport and I'll come up with something for you!). Get your child involved in making the calculations with you, and they will feel an even greater sense of pride.   

The next morning Bart asked over breakfast, “How many miles did I swim again?”  So, for sure he’s going to boast about this to someone at school. That’s OK with me, in this case I think he earned some bragging rights. π

 
If you read my last post about FreeRice, you’ll notice today’s activity is a natural extension of that experience. As soon as our 1350 grains of rice were earned we took a break from the “weirdo computer guy” with the too hard math questions and headed to the kitchen for a snack. Once there, a clever child asked an innocent question:

 “How much rice does it take to make dinner?”

I was not planning to go there, but I swear they asked! Thus began our half-hour of rice counting, in an attempt to determine how many grains it takes to feed our family dinner. 

I scooped up a jar of dry rice to show the kids about how much I would cook to feed the 5 of us (no leftovers). I don’t measure rice, but this is somewhere between 1 and 1 1/2 cups:
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Counting individual grains of rice is no easy feat. They are so tiny you get dizzy staring at the grains (speaking for my eyes only), they stick to your fingers, they roll around, and there are just so darn many of them! There was no way we could count each piece so we had to come up with an estimation scheme.

We had a few different ideas. We tried different spoons, little plates, and bowls in an attempt to keep track of the grains.

I don’t recall how Mr. Potato Head’s ear was involved, but there it is.

We eventually determined that 100 grains of rice is roughly equivalent to a ½ teaspoon.  We took a few ½-teaspoon scoops and counted them to make sure our assumption was OK. It was, depending on who did the scooping! With that information, we decided a teaspoon of rice would equal (approximately) 200 grains.

From there, we measured 2000 grains into the small blue bowl, one teaspoon at a time. It didn’t look like much:
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Based on the final measurements we estimate it takes about 8000 grains of rice to feed our family for dinner. Suddenly we didn’t feel so excited about those 1350 grains we earned answering math problems on FreeRice. It’s barely enough to feed one meal to a toddler.  Ah well, there’s the motivation we needed to go back and play some more. π
 
Today’s example is almost too easy.  I nearly forgot to write about it because the ‘math lesson’ literally took 5 minutes.  Here it is:  There is a wooden column in our house that separates the eating area in the kitchen from the family room. Over breakfast I asked the kids “How tall do you think that column is?” 

Instant math lesson, how easy was that?!

They immediately got up from their seats to get a closer look (any excuse to leave the table while we’re eating). They stretched their hands high, they tried to climb the column, they held their hands a certain distance apart and tried to “measure” this way:
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Then one of them thought to fetch a ruler. Brilliant! They took turns to figure out how many rulers high the column is.
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Even standing on the back of the couch they’re too short to reach the top so some final estimation had to be done. Their final guess for column height was 6 rulers.  Next we talked about how many centimeters are in each ruler, and how many inches. 

6cm X 30cm per ruler = ? 

This is a little tough for a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old who just rolled out of bed, so to break down the problem I asked how much is 6X3? Easy (sort of). How about 6 X 30? 180, they got it! Next, 6 X 12 inches? That was a little more difficult but with help they calculated 72 inches.

I measured the column myself and got 198cm, or 6’ 6”.  Pretty close! I think the kids did a good job with this. 

A key point here is to notice how much you can really accomplish with this type of activity.  One simple exercise, a single question, exposed the kids to at least 5 mathematical concepts: measurement, estimation, addition, multiplication, and conversion between metric/English units. They hadn’t even finished breakfast yet! And like I said, this literally took 5 minutes so it was quick, easy, and yes, a little bit fun too. π