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Math Outside the Classroom

Bills & Change

From managing money to measuring for recipes & home projects, math skills are needed in the day-to-day life of practically every adult. Many useful math skills can be learned & reinforced in real-life situations, where kids can best see how learning math is indeed relevant to their lives. Award-winning educator Melissa Taylor has some fantastic suggestions to help you & your children work on math in real-life situations outside of school. See below or click here to read more.

“Have you ever heard your kids complain that their math class has nothing to do with their real lives? That means maybe they need more real life math experiences outside of the classroom.

The good news? You can easily give them these math experiences with fun activities that incorporate easily into your daily life. Here’s a list of fun math lessons that can be learned outside the classroom.

Math At the Store

My kids still need work on counting and adding coins. And they’re 10 and 13! I think this is common. Kids need practice, practice, practice to get better.

Whenever there isn’t a line behind me, I insist my kids figure out the bills and coins to pay with cash.

Here are more ways you can help your children practice their math skills at the store.

  • SALE PRICES. What does 50% off mean? Ask your children to figure out the cost of a discounted sales item.
    To do this mentally, I recommend figuring out 10% first by moving over the decimal place in your head. Use that to determine 20%, 30%, and so on.
  • COMPARING PRICES. Teach your kids how to compare prices per unit. Look at the same item from different brands, applesauce for example. See how to find the price per ounce to determine which brand has the cheaper price.
  • PAYING. Like I mentioned above, have your children pay with cash to practice using the correct coins and bills.
  • CHANGE. Once your child has paid, if it’s not exact, practice doing the mental math to see how much change you will get back.

Apple Sauce Store prices. Mat hat the store.


There’s something so enticing for kids about food on toothpicks. In fact, toothpicks are a great place to start practicing math in the kitchen. You can make all sorts of food patterns on toothpicks such as: cheese, tomato, cheese, tomato.

Here are more ways you can practice math in the kitchen.

  • PATTERNS. Use toothpicks to make food patterns. Melon balls work great for this, too. Start with an AB pattern and then get more complex to something like ABCABDABCABD.
  • MULTIPLICATION. Baking with kids is a blast. Prior to baking, help your child figure out the amounts in the recipe if you doubled it or tripled it. This is multiplication with fractions so if your child isn’t yet ready for the concept, have them help you with the whole numbers only.
  • FRACTIONS. Take anything that is one whole – a sandwich, a pizza, an apple. Cut into fractions: 2/2, 4/4, 3/3, and so forth. Talk about what each fraction is. Then work to determine equal shares among a group of kids. How many pieces would each child get?

Jelly Bean Math


Math with Snack Food

Use a colorful food to practice math with your snacks. Try jellybeans, Skittles, fruit balls, or cereal.

  • ESTIMATE. Try to make an educated guess (estimate) at how many of each item there are in your snack. Count to find out if your estimate was close. Discuss how to make good estimates.

Jelly Beans

  • SORT. Sort the colors into groups. Count the amount in each group.
  • GRAPH. Make a bar graph with your food.

Making a multi-color graph using jelly beans.

Making a multi-color graph using jelly beans.

  • ADDITION. Write addition sentences and have your child use the snack to figure out the answers.

Jelly Bean Math. 3+2=?

  • SUBTRACT. Write out subtraction sentences. Have your child use the snack to figure out the answers.
  • MULTIPLICATION. Use the snack to represent multiplication equations. Start with two groups of a number, then three, and so forth. How do 4 groups of 5 look? How do you write each as a multiplication problem with numbers?
  • DIVISION. Start with a grouping of your snack. Divide by 2, 3, 4, and 5. Write the division sentence using numbers.

Jelly Bean Division. 6/2=?

  • RATIOS. For more advanced mathematicians, help them figure out ratios (and fractions if you want to go there) of one color compared with another color.

Use pretzels with a soft food like marshmallows to make geometric 2D and 3D shapes.

  • 2D SHAPES. Make two-dimensional shapes. Count the sides, angles, and vertices. Make sure your kids know the names for each shape.
  • 3D SHAPES. Make three-dimensional shapes. Count the sides, angles, and vertices. Make observations on what has changed from 2D to 3D. Learn the names of each.

Soon you’ll begin to see opportunities for math everywhere! And to learn more about math tutoring at Sylvan visit the math page on the Sylvan website.”