It's always important to have a few activities and math games up your sleeve to keep your kids brains active. Math skills, in particular, can get rusty without lots of practice and use. Since few children want to sit down and do worksheets or put pencil to paper to get that practice, parents sometimes need to be creative. One of the easiest places to incorporate math is in your kitchen.
Sequencing Math Games
- Put an assortment of measuring implements on the table or counter. Encourage your child to line up the measuring cups and spoons from smallest to largest or vice versa. You can extend this activity to practice ordinal numbers by asking your child to place an item in the first, second or third cup, using as many ordinal numbers as there are cups.
- Provide picture cards, also known as rebus recipes, for your child. Each card should show a step of the recipe, including a picture of the ingredient and the measurement. For example, 2 Tbs. of flour would be represented by a picture of a bag of flour and two spoons.
- Number the rebus cards and ask your child to put them in order. Then, place all the ingredients and tools on the table and have your child use the cards to make the recipe. (For examples, check out the Dinosaur Dip and Milk Blender Special recipes from Nutrition Exploration.)
Measuring/Estimation Math Games
- Show your child all the different types of measuring tools in the kitchen, from the smallest measuring spoon to the largest measuring cup. Explain and explore the markings on the tools and how they are used to make sure the ratio of ingredients is correct when you cook.
- Ask your younger child to estimate how the different measurements relate to each other. A good way to make this concrete is to give her water and flour to measure and transfer from tool to tool. That way if you ask how many tablespoons are in a cup she can try it out to confirm her estimation.
- Ask older children to explain the relationship amongst the measurements and discuss how this comes in handy when you don't want to make a full recipe or wish to double one. Example questions: How many 1/4 cups are there in a 1/2 cup? If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup on an ingredient, but you only want to make half the recipe, how much of that ingredient should you use?
Multiplication/Percentages Math Games
- Have your child help you double or triple the ingredients in a recipe. If she is unable to multiply fractions yet, have her show you the correct measurement, using cups and spoons.
- Look at nutrition labels with your child and point out the serving size and number of servings per package. Many foods, like crackers and potato chips denote servings as the number of items. Using a food like this, ask your child to calculate how many chips (or crackers) would be needed to make three or four servings. Extension question: If your child was having a party with 10 children and they each wanted one serving, how many chips would you need?
- Use nutrition labels to calculate percentages. Labels show how much of a nutrient the food contains and what percentage of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) this represents. Using that information your older child can calculate how much the RDA is.
- Consider a serving of graham crackers that has 24 grams of carbohydrates, fulfilling 8% of the RDA. This can be made into a simple algebraic sentence: 24 is to X as 8 is to 100 or 24/X = 8/100.
- Cross multiply (top number times bottom number) the two known numbers and divide by the other known number to get the RDA. In this example this would be 24 x 100 = 2400; and 2400 /8 = 300. So, the RDA of carbohydrates is 300 grams. This can be more easily represented in a grid (See table below).
Division Math Games
- Ask your child to help you figure out how to make half of a recipe. Show her the amounts of each ingredient and explain that you need to use exactly half of each one. Have her use numerical division if she is old enough or show you the correct measuring implements if she is too young to use the numbers.