Thanksgiving is over and it’s on to Christmas! Like many other Americans, you might have gotten up in the wee hours to shop for some deals—or you may have never gone to bed at all. Whether you stay home like I do or you finished your shopping for the season by 8:30 this morning, this is a day you can stock up on some teaching aids—all of those Black Friday sales ads!
Just at the time when kids (and some of us moms, too) are ready to start winding down with school and enjoying the holidays, one of the easiest ways to practice math skills stares us down daily: shopping! I’m sure your kids have been making their lists and you have many other family and friends to shop for, too. How can you make this educational?
- Basic Math Facts: Have your kids look for the items on their lists and add the prices to get the total. (This could be scary!) What if you need to buy multiples of an item? Multiply!
- Budgeting: Once they’ve realized that they’re probably not going to get all $2,349.65 worth of toys they’ve asked for, discuss budgeting with them. While we don’t have a definite dollar amount we spend each year, my son has learned that if a big-ticket item is at the top of his list, it will mean that there won’t be as many other gifts.
- Comparison Shopping: After they understand the budget, you can introduce comparison shopping. They might not use this so much for their own gift list, but it can be very important as they’re trying to stretch their own money. Each year we choose angels from the Angel Tree and we try to shop very carefully to get as many of the items on the list that we can. My son has gotten pretty good at finding compromises in his shopping—maybe getting two or three different mid-priced items instead of one huge thing or buying a cheaper item in order to have more money for other things, for instance—and is always excited to think about someone opening the gifts on Christmas morning!
- Rounding and Estimating: Have your kids work on some mental math by making an estimate of the cost for certain items and then find the actual total on paper. Prices are great for practicing rounding!
- Decimals and Percentages: Did you find a coupon? How much of a difference will a sale make in an item’s price? Math with money is the best way to get real life experience working with decimals and percentages as kids calculate things like tax, discounts, and shipping.
Yes, your kids will be doing lots of math. No, they won’t be complaining as much as if they were working out of a textbook. Involve your children in the Christmas shopping this year and you will both get something out of it!