November 2011

Teaching Math Through Laundry

When my oldest son was one year old, he would follow me around the house as I did laundry and other chores. He would “help” me with the laundry. First he helped me collect the laundry. Then, he helped me sort the laundry. I did two simple piles-whites and colors. At first, he obviously needed help and he didn’t do it perfectly. Quite often my husband’s tan socks among other things were in our load of whites. I choose to temporarily tolerate this, because I wanted to encourage my son’s willingness to help and not focus on his failures. I decided that a helpful son was more important to me than perfect laundry. As he got older however, I did occasionally teach him such things as a particular shirt was tan instead of white and that I wanted it sorted in with the colors pile. This worked well, and by the time he was two, he was gathering and sorting the laundry, pretty well, all by himself.

Color identification and sorting are basic math skills. I think by simply helping me sort laundry, it set my son up for easy success in those areas of math. However, those were not the only things I have taught my children through laundry. In addition to the obvious life skill of knowing how to do laundry, I’ve also used laundry to aid in teaching my children the following math skills:

Counting-As we sorted laundry together sometimes we would count how many items we put into the basket.

More than/Less than-After we counted the clothes that we had sorted into each basket, I would ask my son which basket had more pieces of clothes (or articles of clothing) and which had less.

Paring/Matching-Obviously my children learned pairing and matching when I had them match up and fold the pairs of socks.

Shapes-I’ve pointed out the difference between a square and a rectangle using a washcloth and a hand towel. One day while my second son was folding towels, he excitedly pointed out that if you turn a square washcloth 45°, it becomes a diamond! He was happy to fold the diamonds that day (a task he usually complains about)!

Directions-I would give verbal instructions on how to fold a particular item such as “fold the shirt in half by placing your left hand in the middle of the shirt while you use your right hand to lift the right sleeve over to the left sleeve.”

Fractions-I’ve told my children to fold the washcloths in quarters and the hand towels in eighths. Then I’ve shown them how to count the layers after the items are folded to make sure they have folded them according to the correct fraction.

Skip counting-My oldest son really struggled with skip counting by twos, until I had him pair up our socks and lay the pairs all in a row on the floor. Then I had him count the socks. We did this a few times, and then he started getting how to count by twos.

Addition-I have had my oldest son fold our clothes and put them in separate piles for each family member. Then I had him count how many articles of clothing were on each pile and tell me the total number of articles of clothing (I did this with a small load the first time).

Multiplication-I’ve had my son lay out and count the pairs of socks in a load and then tell me how many socks total. This is a very basic intro to multiplication by 2’s.

As my children get older, I’m sure I’ll come up with even more ways of teaching them math while we do laundry together. When we are working on something new in math, I don’t usually bother to get out a special manipulative, I often just use what’s closest to hand at the time. With six people in our home, laundry is usually near by. My children seem to enjoy it when I teach them math through laundry.

What other ways have you used common household chores to teach your children math?

Sock it too ‘em

My family and I went on a road trip to Wisconsin last month. My youngest children usually sit in the middle row of our van, and my older children usually sit in the back row. I like to pass back snacks and toys without having to stop. I can either throw the item back to them-it often gets dropped, or I can have my 2 year old in middle row try to pass it back to the children in the rear row-this often doesn’t go well either.

This trip I was pondering this process before we left and I came up with a “sock delivery system”. I used an old (clean) sock, a long piece of yarn (about 8 feet), and large empty Easter eggs (1 for each child).

I tied one end of the yarn to the cuff of the sock and tied the other end of the yarn to the arm rest of my seat in the van (so it wouldn’t get lost). Then, when I had a snack to pass back to the children, I placed it in the Easter eggs, put the eggs into the sock and tossed the sock, with the yarn attached to it, into the back row of the van. If they missed, I pulled the sock back by the yarn and tried again. When they caught it, they each took an egg out and each got their own snack. When they were done with their snacks, they put the empty eggs back into the sock, and I pulled the sock back to me, so it was ready to go for the next item I wanted to pass back. If I was passing a toy back, I would just put it in the sock and skip the Easter egg.

For the snacks, I also had an extra egg to hand to my son in the middle row so he wouldn’t feel left out of the fun.

This system worked great and my children loved it!

What are some of your secrets for traveling with children?

My View on Life Skills - If You Wait Until Their Teens, It's Almost Too Late

My goal as a parent is to raise God-loving responsible adults. I believe children should be fully capable of being responsible for themselves before they are eighteen years of age. History has clearly demonstrated that men and women are fully capable of this at ages much younger than 18.

My children are young now. I am trying to teach them basic life skills. I intend to teach them most of the life skills I want them to learn, before they become teenagers. Then when they become teenagers, they will have the opportunity to practice these skills under my guidance and supervision, before they are out on their own.

I have a list of life skills that I feel my children will need to know in life as adults. My list has one column for each child. I can check off each skill for each child when I feel that child has learned that specific skill. Such as when my oldest son knows how to sew on a button, I can check it off for him, but not for my other children. That way when my third son is 10, I can look at my chart and know that I haven’t taught him how to sew on a button yet-A skill I don’t practice every day, but feel is important for him to know as an adult. I try to include minor things on my list that I don’t think about often, such as changing the furnace filter. I continue to add things to my list as I think of them.

My list is the same for both my sons and daughters. I believe they both need to know the same life skills. I may teach them the skills differently though. I may teach my son’s how to check and change the oil in their vehicles, where as I may teach my daughter how to check the oil, and how to know when to get it changed at a service station.

I believe it’s not only important to teach life skills to our children, but also to teach them the logic behind the skills. I feel it’s easier to do things, when we know why we are doing them. I also think my children will be more likely to remember the skills I teach them if they know the why behind the skills. And if they do forget something, they will hopefully be able to reason it out.

What’s your view on teaching your children life skills?