The summer season presents an opportunity to inspire your children to love and fully understand math. While students learn math principles and techniques in class during the school year, often children are not taught the critical link between math and the real world. How many of you remember thinking, “When will I use math again?” while daydreaming in class? As a parent, you can answer this question for your children by using the extra time you have with them in the summertime to link math to daily activities that kids love. You’ll have quality family moments while getting kids hooked on math.
There are many subjects to explore this summer to help your children comprehend why math is useful in the real world. For example, a visit to an art museum on a hot day provides a wealth of material related to shapes, angles and geometry. Listening to a street band in a neighborhood park can lead to an audible association with fractions— think quarter notes, half notes, whole notes and even triplets for thirds. And for children off to day camp, before they get on the bus in the morning ask them to remember all of the two-dimensional shapes they see throughout the day, such as a stop sign shaped as an octagon and a slice of pizza as a triangle. Challenge slightly older campers to remember three-dimensional geometric objects, such as a soccer ball shaped as a sphere, a cabin as a cube. Make it an entertaining game, asking your kids what shapes they observed at the end of each day.
Playing sports in the summer is another activity many kids enjoy that relates math to reality. Let’s focus on our national pastime as a way to motivate your children to put math to use. Baseball (or softball) is a perfect tool for demonstrating that math is not only a subject in the classroom but an integral part of a fun outdoor activity. Baseball and softball can address math concepts ranging from basic addition and subtraction for the youngest of little leaguers, to multiplication for athletic all stars. Consider having kids keep track of their statistics or those of professional ball players to get a solid grasp of comparing and contrasting things likes hits, runs and home runs.
In fact, while you can boost children’s math skills while watching a Major League game on TV with your kids or sitting together at a stadium, you can even solidify a child’s understanding of math concepts when you break from a casual game of catch in the park. The following examples can be simplified or expanded to accommodate the appropriate skill level for your budding mathematician.
Basic: Baseball games are nine innings long. It is now the end of the sixth inning. How many innings remain? Ask children to write a number sentence to show how they arrived at the answer. (9 – 6 = 3)
Advanced: Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, can seat 41,800 fans. If on opening day 39,849 people show up to the game, how many empty seats are there? (41,800 – 39,849 = 1,951)
Length and Measurement
Basic: Provide your child with two baseball bats of different lengths as well as a tape measure. Ask your child to measure both bats and to tell you the different lengths in inches.
Advanced: It is 90 feet from home plate to first base. How long is that in inches? (90 x 12 = 1,080 inches)
Basic: The home team scored two runs in each of the first six innings. How many runs did the team score at the end of the sixth inning? (2 x 6 = 12)
Advanced: If there are three outs per inning, nine innings in a game and 162 games in the regular season, how many outs does each team get in the season? (3 x 9 x 162 = 4,374)
Geometry and Angles
Basic: Reveal to your child that the baseball “diamond” is actually a square. To prove this, draw a picture of a baseball diamond for your child, making sure it’s shaped as a square. Next ask your child to draw a circle next to the square and to describe the differences between the two shapes.
Advanced: How many degrees are in each angle in a baseball diamond and what kind of angle is it? Is it acute, obtuse or right? (90 degrees, right angle)
Baseball is just one of the endless concepts to demonstrate actual applications of math in an engaging way. With all of the cool activities you’ll be doing with your children this summer, use your imagination to illustrate the application of math in daily life for your kids. It’s up to you to make real-world math out-of-this-world fun!