Supermarket Math: Fun Activities for Young Children

The supermarket is a wonderful place to teach young children about math. There are numerous opportunities to use the routine actions of shopping for groceries to reinforce concepts your child is learning in school. The list presented here includes ten activities specifically geared towards younger learners.

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#1 Planning a List

Math activities can begin before you leave your house. Work with your child to develop a list of the items you'll need. Ask your child where in the store the items will be found, such as the produce or dairy sections. This activity helps your child with categorization and logic skills.

#2 Estimating Costs

While you plan your list, ask your child to estimate the costs of various items you'll be purchasing. This can be based on prices in a store flyer or your knowledge of what items may cost. For example, if a certain item costs $1 and you'll be buying five, ask your child to determine the total cost of all the items through addition.

grocery store math

#3 Using the Scale

To work on estimation and measurement skills, visit the deli counter or use a scale in the produce department. Have your child estimate how many items it will take to reach a target weight. This can be done before putting items on the scale, or as they are added. You can also compare different types of items to each other, such as apples to tomatoes.

#4 Comparison Shopping

The supermarket is full of options. Ask your child to compare different brands or sizes of the same product. Which is a better deal? Also, discuss when you might base your decision on factors other than price, such as quality or family preference. This activity develops comparative analysis skills.

#5 Looking for Shapes

The supermarket is full of different types of shapes, including cubes, cylinders, cones and rectangular prisms. Before going to the store, you can discuss these shapes with your child and show him or her examples around your home. At the store, have your child seek out these shapes. Note how different shapes serve different products well, in terms of how they are displayed or stacked on shelves.

#6 Coupon Savings

As you pick out items throughout the store for which you have coupons, ask your child to determine the final cost with the coupon savings. The game is simplest with coupons that subtract a fixed amount from a single item. It grows more complex with coupons that require multiple-item purchases, which will require your child to add the full prices and subtract the savings. This activity develops your child's mental addition and subtraction skills.

#7 Supermarket Bingo

If you'd like to focus on matching and reading skills, create a bingo card before you go. You can write the names of items in the squares or cut out pictures from the supermarket flyer. Your child can check off squares by him or herself, or you can create two cards and compete.

#8 Checkout Counting

When you arrive at the checkout counter, there are several mental math games you can play as you pay for your groceries. You can ask your child to determine how many bills you'll need to cover the total, whether you pay with five, ten or 20-dollar bills. You can also have your child estimate the total cost as your items are being rung up.

#9 Guessing with Bags

Once your groceries are home, ask your child to guess how many items are in each bag. Note how some bags fit a larger or smaller number of items due to their differing sizes. This game teaches your child about spatial reasoning.

#10 Sorting at Home

When you get your groceries out of their bags, have your child sort items by characteristics you determine or guess why you sort items into certain groups. For example, separate the cans from the boxes, collect all the items that go in the refrigerator or isolate all the items that are breakfast foods. This game develops your child's logic skills and ability to classify data.

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