I have a confession to make – teaching math to my kids absolutely terrifies me. In school, I was never very good at it. In fact, I really, really struggled. So how can I possibly teach my kids to do what I had such a hard time with? Well, truth is, I don’t teach them, at least not in the manner where they have a textbook and worksheets. This method didn’t work for me, and I am not going to assume it will work for them. Instead, I have learned to let life teach them the math they need to know. I use cooking, building, Legos, and other tangible things from the everyday. If this sounds like something you would like to try, let me start you on your journey with Grocery Shopping Math. Here’s how it works…
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Keep It About Math, Not Actual Grocery Shopping
The first thing to remember when trying this in your homeschool, is keep it all about math. If you intend to get your routine grocery shopping done while you teach, you will inevitably be very frustrated and so will your kids. Instead, carve out time for just the math. Grocery Shopping math does take some time, so plan accordingly. You also don’t want to bother other customers, so go at off-peak times.
Some supplies you are probably going to want with you include:
- List of activities to complete
- Calculator (optional depending on age)
- Math Refresher for you (optional)
Make a plan for what you will be covering. Maybe your child is learning beginning addition. You can have them add the amount of apples in a bag with the amount of bananas in a bunch. You will want to have a worksheet listing all of the things you would like them to do, sort of like a math scavenger hunt.
For older kids you can actually have them create a short shopping list around a recipe they will make at a later time. Then have them estimate the total prior to leaving for the grocery store. While at the store they can find the actual total. I have had my kids use pencil and paper on some occasions and a calculator on others. It really depends on what you are comfortable with. Then they can compare how close their estimation was to the actual total.
Be creative and fun with it, and try to keep it low pressure. The point of Grocery Shopping Math is to help demonstrate to your child the real world uses for math and keep them engaged. They will not be very interested if the math problems being presented are too difficult. And remember, this is a public classroom, and could increase frustration if presented the wrong way. When done right, kids tend to respond well, and my kids will come up with their own math problems even when its just fun shopping.
FYI – Grocery Shopping Math is great for hands-on learners!
Really, Grocery Shopping Math is almost endless in its possibilities for learning general math concepts.
What Can Be Covered?
Grocery stores are a great place to practice mental math, something that seems to be lacking in our modern digital driven world. This is an easy thing to practice, and doesn’t even require a pencil. I simply throw out a few items on the list, and have my kids add these items in their head.
The produce section is a great place if you want a little bit more challenging problems. Since the produce section is typically set up in price per pound, an easy way to make things more tricky is to say “How much will it cost it I purchase 3 pounds of peaches?” I also like stores that sell items that are listed as multiples for a certain price. I might ask my kids to figure out how much I would need if I only want one.
It seems that stores in America cannot ever list a whole number price. This makes finding rounding problems for your child to figure out very easy. I typically make rounding a mental math task, so we don’t use a scavenger hunt or a grocery list. I just make up problems on the spot. This is probably the easiest concept to teach at the grocery store.
This is a no-brainer. I know, but it needs to be listed, right? This is one of those time I let me kids use the calculator. Partly because it is much more difficult to come up with the answers when there is a decimal involved, and partly because I don’t want it to become consumer math. I will sometimes have them add numbers past the decimal to make it more challenging. So if the price is $1.28, I will have them had 5, 6, 1 to the end. Again, this helps to make it less like money and more like actual decimals.
Another great place to find decimals that aren’t attached to prices is the meat department. They weigh each item and typically they try to be as accurate as possible. This means there are decimals that have nothing to do with the price. Your kids can compare the decimals to see which package weighs more or less. Packages can be added or subtracted by their weights. You may even want to have your child figure out the average weight of each piece of chicken within a family pack.
The Value of a Dollar…
Consumer math is of course a great way to incorporate Grocery Shopping Math. Teaching your child the value of a dollar at a young age will help them so much when they leave the nest. Have your child pick a recipe to make for the family. Then have them go through all of the steps to get the necessary items. Help them with making a shopping list, looking for coupons, watching for deals, and of course, staying within a budget. This is something that is definitely lacking from our public education system. Yet, I would argue that it is the most important math you can teach your child.
So, the next time you are out in the grocery store, why not try a little Grocery Shopping Math. It might just get your children in the mood for learning.