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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

 
Ahhh summer is here!  Well not officially for a couple weeks, but the strawberries are ripe and fresh corn has been spotted in the stores. We saw this sign at a local farm stand:
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I decided I’m going to wait for corn prices to come down a little before we buy some, and moved on to the next produce display. Wanda stayed back to study the sign for several minutes and finally asked “What does that mean?”  What is obvious to an adult can be such a puzzle to a 5-year-old. Upon closer inspection it hit me that this sign is a multi-faceted math learning tool for kids! Here was an opportunity to talk about money, fractions, adding, multiplication, rounding, and decimals, not to mention the concept of a “dozen”. Wow!

Step by step we read the prices and I explained what each line means. We talked about how a price that ends in “.99” should always be rounded up to the next dollar. She thought it was so weird that they don’t just sell it for 4 dollars or 7 dollars (I agree with Wanda).  I asked her to figure out if you pay more or less per ear of corn if you buy a dozen or a half dozen. This was a tough problem, so we worked it out together. Again, she thought it’s so weird that the more you buy the less you pay per piece of corn. Now there’s a great lesson in marketing as well as math!

This brief but educational exchange at the farm stand is the perfect example to support my “math is everywhere” mantra. I encourage you to look around next time you go out with your kids – whether it’s the farm stand, grocery store, gas station, the mall, or even a walk in the park. Can you find signs like the one we saw for corn? Can you see geometric patterns in the things you see in nature? Does your child know what all the different numbers at the gas station pump mean? These everyday activities are all opportunities for mini math discussions. Once you start to incorporate these math conversations in your day, you may soon find your child will do the same. So go ahead and call me corny, but I really believe every 5 minutes you spend doing math with your child really counts! π