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Learning Mathematics - Activities for the Grocery Store: Kindergarten through Grade 2

— U.S. Department of Education
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

Mathematics at the Grocery Store — Activities

The grocery store is one of the best examples of a place where the ability to use mathematics is put to work in the "real world." It's a great place to practice measurement and estimation and to learn about volume and quantity and their relationships to the sizes and shapes of containers—geometry!

Preschool: One Potato, Two Potatoes

Use advertising flyers or newspaper advertisements to help your child identify, classify and count items. Ask, for example, "How many cans of soup are there?" "What vegetables do you see?" and so forth.

Making a grocery shopping list can be both enjoyable and an opportunity to reinforce young children's number sense.

What You Need

  • List of grocery items
  • Color pictures of grocery items cut from magazines, catalogs or advertising flyers (for example, choose pictures of different kinds of vegetables, fruit, containers of milk or juice, cans of soup, boxes of cereal and crackers, loaves of bread)
  • Index cards (or similar-sized cards cut from heavy paper)
  • Glue stick
  • Small box (large enough to hold the cards)

What to Do

  • Put together the set of food pictures and help your child paste each picture onto a card. Then have your child sit with you as you make up a grocery shopping list. Read the list aloud to her, item by item, saying, for example, "We need to buy milk. Find the picture of the milk." When the child finds the picture, have her put it in the box. Continue through the list, asking her to find pictures of such things as apples, potatoes, bread, soup and juice.
  • When you've finished, ask your child to tell you how many things you need to buy, then help her to count the pictures in the box.
  • Ask your child to put all the pictures of vegetables in one group, then all the pictures of fruit in another group. (You might continue with items that are in cans, items that are in boxes and so on.)
  • Point to one group of pictures, such as the fruit. Help her to count the number of pictures in that group. Have her do the same for other groups.

Kindergarten-Grade 1: Ready, Set, Shop!

Using the advertised prices in a newspaper or flyer to estimate the cost of items on a shopping list can help children sharpen their mental math and estimation abilities.

Grocery shopping offers opportunities to let children apply a range of mathematics skills, including data collection and estimation.

What You Need

  • Pencil and paper
  • Calculator

What to Do

  • To help your child learn about collecting data, involve him in making a shopping list for a special occasion, such as his birthday party. As you discuss what you need to buy, write out a list of grocery items. Then review the list with your child and tell him to make a check mark next to each item that you name. If you need more than one of an item, such as cartons of ice cream, tell him how many checks to make beside that item. Review the list with him and have him tell you what items-and how many of each—that you need to buy.
  • Ask your child to choose something that he wants for dinner—a cake, a salad, tacos. Have him check to see what ingredients you already have, then ask him to help you make a shopping list. At the grocery store, let him find each item on the list. Help him to compare prices for different brands of the same items (such as boxes of cake mix) to see which items are the best buys.
  • Ask your child questions such as, "Which is cheaper, this package of two tomatoes for $1.50 or three of these tomatoes at 60 cents each?" Have him estimate, then check his answer with a calculator.
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