Most parents probably wouldn't mind subtracting 8-9 years off their age. Here's a fun subtraction activity for your child that will do just that—in theory, anyway. It's also a good way to boost third grade subtraction skills and make them real and relevant.
What You Do:
- Explain to your child that his mission is to find out how old everyone was when he was born. Encourage your child to go around and record each family member's current age--don't forget grandparents, cousins, uncles, and aunts! Use the adult's age as the top number, and your child's age as the bottom number. Have your child set up the equation and subtract.
- Now that your child knows how old everyone was when you were born, try it this way: Add his age to every family member’s age today. When you get the result, have your child make a line graph with numbers 0-100 on the y-axis (vertical) and names of family members on the x-axis (horizontal). Ask your child to plot the ages and connect the dots to see how large of an age difference there is between family members.
- Write a word problem with your child using the ages collected above. For example, when I was born, mom was thirty years old. Now I am 9-years-old. How old is mom? Word problems in abundance!
What's going on? You're tying abstract math skills--the stuff on flashcards and worksheets--to real life. These kinds of activities help your child build lifetime skills, and they help make related topics--like the timelines of history--make perfect sense. Don't be surprised, of course, if you also end up with some cherished family stories while you're at it.
Alicia Danyali has taught elementary school children for eight years. Most recently, she taught first and third grade at the Washington International School in Washington, D.C. She is also the mother of one young son.