Summer doesn’t have to mean the end of learning math for the school year. In my homeschooling, I look frequently for opportunities to connect natural play with what other students my kids’ ages are learning.
Doing math in summer…without realizing it
Every summer, my community pool hosted a party where they filled up the water with sunken coins. All of us kids LOVED to dive in and grab everything we could before the watermelon eating contest. We’d add up how much we had earned and compared it with our jealous friends. And we never thought about school. So I wanted to recreate this for my son.
First, I knew I wanted my son to be able to recognize all coins, front and back. So I began by incorporating change diving with coin identification. I spent days throwing change into the pool and having him bring it back up to me, telling me which coins were named what. Of course, this wasn’t all of our pool time. Five to ten minutes until he lost interest was plenty. After we learned the coin names and fronts/backs, we moved on to coin values.
Whenever he would bring me up a coin, he’d have to tell me its name and how much it was worth (“This is a dime. It’s worth ten cents.”) The main thing that tripped him up was how a dime was worth more than a nickel, as it’s smaller. Repetition helped. This, again, lasted a few days.
Next, I wanted him to be able to add the coins together. But rather than throwing a mix of all types into the pool, I would work with only one at a time. He’s already learned how to skip count by fives and tens, so this helped with us counting up our nickels and dimes. Quarters were harder, but we worked on memorizing combinations of quarters up to a dollar. After working on one type of coin at a time, we were ready to mix them all up.
I found that helping him to sort the coins by value with the largest value first to the smallest value last (e.g. quarters, then dimes, then nickels, then pennies) helped him with adding mixed combinations. Eventually, I created a set of coin counting mats and tools to help organize his work.
We didn’t use this set poolside, but if you wanted to, you could easily laminate it and stick it in the pool bag with a ziploc full of change for extra practice.
My son is constantly looking around home for coins. I tell him he can keep them if he can tell me how much they’re worth (except quarters–sorry, those are precious gold for the laundromat.) He loves counting up change, and he still enjoys diving for it. And he still hasn’t figured out he’s doing “school work.”