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:
Then one of them thought to fetch a ruler. Brilliant! They took turns to figure out how many rulers high the column is.
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 

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