How to Teach Math While Grocery Shopping

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As a worry free homeschooling parent, I really like to use real life situations to teach my kids.  Yes, we use computer programs, books and worksheets, but my favorite way to teach doesn’t use any of them. The grocery store is a great place for teaching reading and math. I love it when I get to show my kids real math applications.  That’s why I take every possible opportunity to teach math while grocery shopping.  My most recent opportunity came this morning in the form of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

My oldest, Grace is currently working at a fifth grade math level.  This week she has been factoring, adding and subtracting decimals, and doing fractions, using the CTC Math program. I love CTC Math and hope to do a review of it as soon as they accept my affiliate status.  Anyway, back to the story.  She has been doing a lot of math on line with CTC Math, and I wanted to switch things up a little.  You know,  give her a real world problem to solve while we were at the grocery store. Now, I suppose you remember most of these math applications, but in case you don’t remember, factoring is important to division and working with fractions.

Here’s how factoring works.  Let’s factor the number 32 to find all the numbers that will divide into it evenly: 1 X 32=32, 2 X 16=32, and 4 X 8=32. So, the factors of 32 are 1,2,4,8,16 and 32.  Grace is currently learning how to solve problems such as the one above.

How do I use the grocery store to help my kids learn how to add, subtract, multiply, divide. factor, use measurements, and use decimals and fractions? Specifically, how can I use the grocery store as an opportunity to show Grace a practical application of these math skills?

Sharp Cheddar Cheese To The Rescue

This morning we went shopping at HEB (My very favorite grocery store and no, they’re not paying me to say that).  I needed shredded sharp cheddar cheese, so we went over to the cheese section.  I noticed that there were two sizes of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  This was a perfect way to give Grace an opportunity to put her new skills to the test.

To set up the problem I showed Grace the two different sized packages of cheese:

  • Package one, was 32 oz. and cost $6.87
  • Package two was 8 oz. and was priced at 2 for $5.00
  • The problem Grace had to solve was which one was a better deal?

Solving The Problem

I’m about to show you exactly how I walked Grace through the problem. There are several ways I could have helped her solve it but this is how it went.

  • I showed Grace the two packages and their prices.  I asked her which one was the better deal.
  • Second, I asked her how many ounces each of the packages weighed and she replied correctly, 8 and 32 ounces.
  • Next, I asked Grace if there was a number that both 8(ounces) and 32(ounces) went into evenly.  Now, it took her a minute because she had to shift out of shopping brain into math brain, but eventually, she said yes.  32 goes into 32 once and 8 goes into 32, four times. She used factoring to find the answer.
  • Then, I asked Grace how much one 8oz package of cheese cost.  She divided $5.00 by 2.  Mind you, she had to do all of this in her head, without paper. After some pretty hard thinking she came up with $2.50 per package. So here she used division of decimals to get the answer. Now we have established that one package of cheese is 32oz and costs $6.87 and the other package weighs 8oz and costs $2.50.
  • Next, I asked Grace how many small packages went into one large package and she said “four”which was correct.
  • So, I asked her what she needed to do in order to finish solving the problem.  She needed a little help, so I told her she needed to multiply 4 (the number of packages) X $2.50 (the price per small package).  She correctly said 10.  A asked her what that meant.  She thought for a minute and then said “four packages of the small cheese is $10 dollars”. She used multiplying with decimals to get the answer.
  • Finally, I asked her which was the better deal and she correctly answered “the larger package”.

I hope reading the technique above wasn’t as tedious for you, as it was for me to write it.  The reason I included it, was not to show you specifically how to do math at the grocery store, but rather that you CAN use the grocery store to teach math and that it’s pretty easy.

There You Have It

So, what did we accomplish here?  By using a trip to the grocery store I was able to:

  • Show Grace that the math she is having to learn, has real world applications
  • Teach Grace how to solve a several step math problem in her head while using several math applications.
  • Provide Grace with a real live word problem, only the words weren’t on paper.

I can’t tell how much pride and joy it gives me to be Grace’s teacher.  I’m so glad that I’m witnessing her growth and the sense of accomplishment she feels when she learns something.

This exercise really challenged Grace and she was able to see that learning these math applications is important.  It really forced her to think, using her brain without the aid of a calculator or even a sheet of paper.  I’m really proud of Grace, she takes to these real world learning opportunities without complaining.

You don’t have to be a homeschool teacher in order to try doing math problems with your kids at the grocery store.  Anyone can use the grocery store as a classroom.  One of the things that I love about homeschooling is that our classroom doesn’t have to be in our house and that homeschooling isn’t just books, computers and worksheets. Remember, even if your kids do go to a public or private school, not all of their learning has to take place there.  You can augment their education, and witness the joy of learning first hand.

Have you tried any grocery shopping math with your kids?  Please share some tips or examples of how you used it.  I’m always looking for new ideas to try with my kiddos!  Now I need to figure out some ideas for camping math.  Hmmmmm……..

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