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Learning maths need not always be about practicing sums. Make maths interesting for your child by allowing him to count, measure, and sort items in the kitchen.
Paul Halmos, a Hungarian Jewish mathematician known for simplifying complicated mathematical concepts, once famously said, "The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics."
Mathematics is inextricably tied to our daily lives. Where would we be without a concept of time or money or knowing how to mix the right portions of milk, sugar, and tea leaves to get us our daily cup of tea? Yet, we often make the mistake of restricting maths problems to abstract sums in school textbooks. When children learn to use mathematics in daily life, they also learn computation, problem-solving and critical thinking skills simultaneously.
What's more, you don't need expensive teaching equipment or lab kits to teach maths and science to your children. From buying groceries to organizing the pantry by storing items in containers of various sizes and measuring portions for kid-friendly recipes, children can learn about various mathematical concepts in the comfort of your kitchen. This way, children see how they use maths in everyday life for doing the simplest of calculations and recognize its importance.
There is a lot of maths involved when shopping for food and kitchen items. We must estimate costs, plan for meals and stay within the budget while buying groceries.
The activity: The next time you have to visit the neighborhood supermarket to replenish your pantry, how about asking your child to make a shopping list of the items he wants and pick up the required quantity from the store shelves? Say, he would like to buy three packets of biscuits and one bottle of jam but you notice that he has taken only two packets of biscuits. You can ask your child to count aloud the number of biscuit packets in the cart. Count along with your child - "One, two." Once he realizes that he has only two, you can ask him to pick one more packet from the shelf and add it to the basket to make it three.
How it will help: Teaching through visual representation is a great way to introduce preschoolers to concepts of addition and subtraction. This activity will also help improve your child's basic counting skills.
The activity: A fun way to introduce measurement concepts to small children is by involving them in a fun activity like making chapattis. You can ask your child to add two cups of flour into a bowl while counting aloud—"One, two". Then let him add 10 tablespoons of water to the flour while saying the numbers from 1 to 10 out loud. Let your child knead the dough and roll it into balls. You can then ask him to count the number of dough balls he has and how many chapattis he can make out of them.
How it helps: While playing with dough is fun, it also has the added benefit of teaching your child to measure the number of ingredients required to prepare the dough.
The activity: What if your child wants you to bake his favorite cookies? Well, it's a good opportunity for you to introduce him to some of the basic shapes such as square, rectangle, and triangle in a way he will understand. You can get him involved in the process right from mixing the cookie dough to cutting a shape out of the dough. For this, you will need cookie cutters of various shapes. Alternatively, you can also show him how to shape the dough using a picture chart of various shapes. It is important to name each shape while your child is shaping the dough. Once you have baked the cookies in the oven and allowed them to cool, you can hand them over to your child and ask him if he remembers the name of each shape.
How it helps: Baking cookies is a great way for your child to discover and learn some basic shapes.
The activity: Ask your child to estimate the number of packets of candies she might need to buy to distribute among her classmates. Let's say a packet of 30 candies costs Rs 100. How many packets would she have to buy to distribute to her class of 90 students and what will be the total cost?
How it helps: Estimation is an important skill in mathematics. It will teach your child to approximate quickly without the help of a calculator.
The activity: Older kids can help you with measuring the weight of the ingredients required to make their favorite dish. Often recipes call for weighing the ingredients in terms of grams, pounds, or ounces. If you have a digital weighing scale in the kitchen, it is easy for your child to practically weigh the ingredients in different units and hand them over to you.
How it helps: Routinely weighing items using a kitchen scale will sharpen your child's skills in estimating weights and learning about the various units of weight measurement.
You can engage your child in the following activities.
Activity 1: Lime juice is one simple drink your little one can prepare on her own provided she knows how much of each ingredient she needs to add. You can explain to her that to prepare one glass of lemon juice, she will need to squeeze the juice from one lemon into one glass of water and add two tablespoons of sugar to it. You can gradually ask her to prepare two glasses of lime juice and explain the need to proportionately increase the quantity of lime extract and sugar.
Activity 2: Cooking rice, preparing tea, and measuring pulses for soaking are some simple kitchen activities that give older children hands-on practice in understanding ratio and proportions. For instance, water and rice need to be in a 2:1 ratio. For one cup of tea, the ratio of water to milk is again 2:1. Likewise, it takes 3 parts of water to soak 1 part of pulses.
How it helps: Taking proportionate portions of different ingredients and mixing them will help children grasp the concept of ratios, proportions, and mixed numbers.
The activity: There are many activities in the kitchen that involve measuring time intervals. For example, if you are baking a cake in a microwave, you can set the cake pan inside and ask your child to set the time and temperature.
How it helps: Looking at a clock and telling the time can be difficult for preschoolers and younger children. However, allowing older children to partake in cooking activities that involve calculating time intervals helps them practice and develop a clear understanding of time concepts.
The activity: Ask your children to calculate the number of calories they might consume in a packet of chips by looking at the food label. Explain to your child how calories are units that measure energy present in food and how consuming more calories than needed can cause weight gain.
How it helps: Calculating the number of calories in the food they eat, will not only reinforce maths skills but also make them understand the importance of avoiding junk food and eating a balanced diet. Make sure you have a calorie requirement chart along with calories found in different food groups available, for reference.
There are a number of other ways in which you can involve your children in the kitchen and teach them important maths and science concepts. Children learn better when they are involved in an activity rather than by just referring to their books. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to have fun. So, go ahead and cook up some maths skills!
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