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Did you notice that adorable kitty in my last post? That sweet little girl is Popcorn, and we have so much fun with her! Popcorn joined our family about a month ago. She was supposed to be a “friend” to our older cat, Marge, but so far Margie hasn’t bought into our plan. That translates to lots of scuffles at the feeding station and regular 4 a.m. cat fights, but we are confident (ahem) that the cats will get used to each other before long.

Here’s a quick and easy problem for the math cats out there. The kids were wondering how much Popcorn weighs. She looks so tiny next to Large Marge. So I had them get on the scale holding her, then weigh themselves without her.  Considering the kitten only weighs 2 pounds, this was an easy enough subtraction problem. Next they wanted to know how much the big cat weighs. Margie is big enough that the kids are not comfortable holding her, so I had to weigh myself with and without the cat (sorry I’m not posting the actual numbers here – he he). Margie is an even 10 pounds which made for another pretty easy subtraction problem.

Popcorn is growing fast so we can repeat this exercise in a month or 2 and compare the results. We could make a graph! We can calculate how much food they eat. We can try to count their whiskers. What else?? So many cat-related math possibilities abound! π

 
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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

 
With kids you learn something new every day. Especially with a 7-year old boy obsessed with random facts and trivia. Did you know that less than 5% of the world’s population has the ability to lick their own elbow? Did anyone ever tell you it takes a sloth six days to digest food, or that a newborn kangaroo is about as long as a paperclip?

Bart devours everything from the Guinness Book of World Records to Weird But True, to Bart’s King-Sized Book of Fun, and everything in between, and usually at the breakfast/lunch/dinner table. Today’s math minute was inspired by an animal featured in the National Geographic Almanac 2010.
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Meet Tylosaur, a vicious prehistoric marine dinosaur with two rows of teeth and body length up to 29 feet. 29 feet long? Just how long is that?  Well, get out your tape measure and see for yourself! 

With one kid at each end of the tape measure we marked off 29 feet leading from our family room into the kitchen, then tried to imagine a nasty swimming dinosaur that size inside our house. This literally took about 2 minutes, but I think it made an impression. In any case if we ever need to estimate what 30 or so feet looks like, we can always look back and say “remember the Tylosaur”. By the way, did you know that astronauts can’t whistle on the moon? 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