Most kids don’t think of grocery shopping as an exciting way to spend the afternoon. But when grocery shopping involves a game and possible prizes, you just might have your child begging to go with you! Not only is this a fun diversion from worksheets (and a chance for you to get some shopping done), but it's also a great chance to practice rounding, estimation and addition with a hands-on method—one of the very best ways to make sense of math.
What You Do:
- Write your weekly grocery list, leaving space next to each item for a dollar amount to be written.
- Ask your child to look over the list, think about what each item probably costs, and “guess” a total price for all of the groceries.
- Head to the grocery store with your child. On the way, explain that she will be rounding, adding and estimating the total cost of the groceries as you shop. Surprise her by telling her that she will get a prize if her estimate comes within $10.00 of the actual total.
- As you begin shopping, hand over the shopping list to your child. Every time an item goes into the cart, she should write the actual price and then round it to the nearest dollar (e.g. peas: $2.89 = $3.00). When you finish shopping, ask your fourth grader to add up her list of rounded amounts and get an estimated total (bring a calculator or help her do mental math). Compare her estimated total with her “guess” from home.
- After checking out and paying for your groceries, give the receipt to your child and have her compare her estimated total with the actual total. If she is within $10.00, offer her a small prize. If she doesn’t “win”, offer a “participation prize” to keep her motivated.
Follow-up questions for the ride home are a great way to focus in on what was learned. Try these: What items were least/most expensive? What patterns do you see in pricing? What types of food are more expensive? How can rounding and estimating help you as a shopper?
If it's difficult to schedule a joint trip to the grocery store, try occasionally bringing home your grocery receipt. Cut off the bottom sales total, then give the top portion to your child and ask her to round each item and estimate the total. Compare to see how close she came to the actual total. You can offer a small reward, or just simply praise her for a job well done; sometimes that's the best reward of all!
Estimating the grocery bill could even become your fourth grader’s new job and a way to earn a small allowance. Your child will enjoy the small rewards for completing an "adult" job, and she will look forward to her weekly challenge of guessing the groceries!
Brigid Del Carmen has a Master's Degree in Special Education with endorsements in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders/Emotional Impairments. Over the past eight years, she has taught Language Arts, Reading and Math in her middle school special education classroom.