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Sneak math into summer family activities

Help your children retain their math skills.

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This summer, when your child asks, "Are we there yet?" on that family road trip, you can have a new answer.

Surreptitiously relating everything to math helps children use their noggins in the summertime, suggests Glen Whitney, co-founder and co-executive director at Manhattan’s Museum of Mathematics.

“Summer’s a great opportunity, if you’re out doing things, to make math more connected with the world,” he says.

Whitney says summer can be a prime time to sneak math into warm-weather activities, from a routine summer family roadtrip to a baseball game.

“Kids are naturally curious, and they want to be able to figure out things,” he says. ”They want to figure out, how long it’s going to save me to save up for that skateboard.”

Whitney gave Metro five ways to sneak math into summer activities:

When your kids ask that quintessential question, “Are we there yet?,” make it a math problem. Ask them to calculate how far away you are and how long it will take to reach your destination. This may also be a chance to invoke the “when I was your age” card – “When I was a kid, you had to look at the little numbers on the map and look them up,” he recalls. “Now, you don’t have to do that any more, thanks to Google Maps.” Explain the odometer and how it changes as you move along.

Play the 24 game. Look at the numbers in different license plates and ponder how they might add up to 24. For example, with a license plate of 2261, a child could put together that two times two is four, which equals 24 when multiplied by six. “In New York, with the four numbers on the license plate, that gives you good material,” Whitney notes.

Bring children along while you shop for a camping trip or a summer barbecue.
“Anything you can involve your kids in that kind of budgeting, planning or estimating” is great, he says. Explain the budget and, as you approach the checkout, ask them to tabulate a rough estimate of how much everything will cost.

Point out shapes. If you are in Manahttan, for example, ask kids what shapes they see. A building could be a rectangle, and a roof could be a triangle. This introduces kids to, or helps them keep up with, basic geometry.

If your child is a sports fan, get them involved with the numbers in the game. For example, if they’re a fan of a certain baseball star, ask them how many hits he needs to get his batting average up or how many games the Yankees need to win to increase their ranking.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison

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