It is easy to turn “going somewhere” into a math experience by being on the lookout for numbers, shapes, and patterns.
These types of activities help raise the awareness of mathematics in the environment and encourage your children to notice and figure out things. It can be a practice of things they know or a challenge.
A notebook in the car or in your bag can be a place where you ask them to write things down you notice as you are “going places.”
- Driving in the car
- Bus or train trips
- Walking to school or a nearby shop
For kids age 4-6
- Number: Find a number and use it as a “launchpad” for counting backward or forward or in jumps of two or ten.
- Patterns: One day, walk on the even number side of the street and the next on the odd number side. Notice which numbers are on the two sides.
- Time: Count the seconds while waiting for the light to change; notice anywhere there is a clock along the way.
- Money: Notice all the signs that have dollars on them—for example, gas stations, supermarkets, and car dealerships.
- Shapes: Choose a shape and find objects in that shape along the way. You can choose two-dimensional shapes (circles, squares, rectangles, or triangles) or three-dimensional objects (boxes, balls, cones, and pyramids).
- Statistics: Choose one color of car to count on the way. On the way home or the next time, choose a different one. Keep going for several trips. What color seems to be the most common? The least common?
For kids 7-11
- Number: Spot a number and use it as a “launchpad” for naming things that make it. Example “There’s a 12 on a letterbox, that’s 3×4, 2×6, 10+2, 100–88, half of 24, etc.”
- Patterns: Look how fences are put together. How many palings for each post? How many short ones to how many long ones? Have people planted flowers or trees in patterns by color or height or number? In tall buildings, how are the windows arranged? Is there a pattern?
- Time: Look for clocks and schedules. Ask children to read the time; if it’s a digital clock, ask what it would look like on a traditional clock. Where would the hands be to make that time? If waiting for a bus, ask children to read the schedule and tell you what time the next bus comes. What time does the last one come? Is there a pattern to the bus times?
- Money: If prices are advertised in windows of stores or on signs, play a game that helps with the two and ten times tables. Ask the children to double a price (2x) or 10x a price.
- Shapes: You can ask children at this age to try and spot hexagons, different kinds of triangles, right angles, or parallel lines in buildings as you pass by.
- Statistics: Notice the activities of people on the train or bus; how many are using mobile phones, or reading, or using computers or just sitting? Notice who is on the bus or train; how many children, teenagers, elderly and others? Why are there more people of certain ages at certain times of the day?
For kids 12 and up
- Number: Spot a number and use it as a “launchpad” for naming things that “make it.” For example, “There’s an 84, that’s 2×42, 4×21, 10×8.4, 5×16.8, half of 168, etc.”
- Patterns: Look how fences are put together. How many palings for each post? How many short ones to how many long ones? Have people planted flowers or trees in patterns by color or height or number? In tall buildings, how are the windows arranged? Is there a pattern? Look for and discuss patterns in tiles and paving stones.
- Time and statistics: Time how long it takes to walk to school each day and talk about why there are differences, or time alternative routes to a place (one way going and one way coming home) and discuss any differences.
- Money: If you pass a gas station, watch the prices change over the course of a few weeks and ask the children to tell you if it is increasing or decreasing and by how much?
- Shapes: Spot the angles in the environment and discuss them. A full turn is 360°, a right angle is 90°, an acute angle is less than 90°, an obtuse angle is more than 90°, and a straight line is 180°.
It’s time to bring math to your next outing with your child. Thankfully, these fun tips will help develop your child’s math skills and enhance the experience whenever you’re going somewhere with them.
This article is derived from “Maths at our house: Going places.” It is licensed under Crown Copyright from the New Zealand Ministry of Education.