Halloween has come and go, leaving us with the leftover hype and an extended sugar rush. What to do with all those treats besides stuffing them in your mouth before your child has a chance to realize you’re stealing her candy (did I just totally project myself?)
Well use them for math, of course! Because fun holiday + sweet treats + good times = Math. Obviously.
For me, the ability to remember mathematical equations and processes depends directly on the usefulness of said process. For example, if I repeat multiplication tables just for the sake of repeating, my ability to memorize them will not reach full potential, as there isn’t a specific situation to which I can link the knowledge.
But, if I play store and my customer is buying six items that cost $13, I can realize that learning 6 x 13 is way easier than trying to add 13 six times; there’s a practicality to the learning, hence making it easier to remember.
I believe that if there’s a function, if the child understands how the lesson taught will be applied and benefit them in real life situations, then learning becomes easier. Because there’s a point to it.
In this case, the point was to explain which candy is the most original– the one that was given out the least.
It would have been easy to just count and blurt out the answer, but there was a catch. We had to pretend that this information was going to be given in a fancy schmancy meeting in front of CEOs and Directors that happen to love all things visually graphic. How to transmit the information efficiently and elegantly?
First, dump all the candy on the floor.
Then, refrain from screaming at your child for the umpteenth time for eating half the stash in one day and making herself sick. Breathe.
Now, let your kid choose in which and how many categories to divide the candy. Anna chose the following: Chips, chocolates, gum, candy, lollipops, and granola bars.
Then, using a tally chart, mark down in graph paper the amount you have of each category.
With this information, encourage your child to create a graph. Let her decide what information goes where. Let her figure it out, momma. Back off. Further back. Good.
They’ll figure out where the numbers and the names of the items go. Anna chose to do a regular bar graph, but your kid could choose to do a horizontal bar graph. Or maybe instead of bars she’ll use monkeys climbing up trees, or lightning bolts of different lengths. All options are acceptable, creativity is more than welcome.
Take a moment to marvel in your kid’s concentration in this task. Hey, we’re talking candy here. ‘Tis serious stuff.
Graph all done! Analyze your results:
So granola bars were our most original treat. Gee, I wonder why?
Now, chances are something really cool will happen with your kid at this point: She may start asking her own questions.
After looking at her graph Anna said “I wonder how many treats I got in total?” which I thought was a fantastic question. She turned back to her tally chart and counted by 5’s to work out the total. ” I got 153 treats in all!” Minus the 3,453 she ate the night before until she puked, of course.
After finishing this graph we had other questions left unanswered. In our category named ‘Candy’, we had different kinds of candy that were too few to divide on their own. But now Anna wanted to know more. She was data-thirsty like a zombie crying for brains “Graaaaaphsss”. Ok she didn’t really say that, but you catch my drift.
She chose to keep going and create another graph to divide that Candy category. This time she went for a line graph, or what we call a ‘connect-the-dots graph’.
In the candy category, we had several packets of gummies. I lined them up and asked her to figure out how many there were without counting.
She quickly worked out that there were 4 horizontally and 3 vertically, so 3 x 4= 12. Here she confirmed once again the practicality of multiplication. Remembering 3×4 was way faster than counting each packet one by one. Thanks to little things like this Anna is way more open to learning the times tables than I ever was.
Additional questions you can ask:
– How many more chocolate than lollipops did you get?
– How many less granola bars than gum do you have?
– What is the total of chips and candy combined?
Tally charts? Check. Bar graphs? Check. Line graphs? Check. Addition? Check. Multiplication? Check. Subtraction? Check. Data organization? Check. Getting a treat after the work is done? Check.
At 28 years old, I finally get it: Math can be fun. I’m just glad my kid doesn’t have to wait 20 more years to discover that.