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[May 07, 2007]  Q: My son has always struggled when it comes to math. This has never been my best subject either. I have tried my best to help him with math homework, but now that we are on summer break, I'm afraid he will lose everything he's learned in school.

A: One of the best ways to encourage and help with learning is to connect lessons to real life. You can use an everyday shopping trip to the grocery store to link math skills to your son's daily life. The following activities also show that math helps us "shop smart" and save money:

  • Before a shopping trip, talk with your son about how to compare prices. Explain that you will need a common measurement to use, such as ounces or inches.

  • Make a shopping list and decide to find the best value for several items. Bring a pencil and paper to the store.

  • Find the first item and notice how it is measured. For example, juice is usually measured in ounces. One jug might cost $3.89 for 64 ounces, while another might cost $1.98 for 32 ounces.

  • Ask your son, "Which is the better buy?" (assuming the two kinds of juice taste similar).

  • Help your son solve the problem like this: Divide the cost by the number of ounces. The brand with the smallest answer is a better deal. (In this example, it's the 64-ounce jug.)

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  • Can your son find the better value for other things on your list?

  • Give your son some new challenges once he has the hang of it. Can he compare prices using metric measurements?

  • Can your son compare items that are priced differently, such as apples that are $2 a pound and oranges that are six for 99 cents? (Hint: This requires weighing each product.)

  • Have your son practice by using store ads. If he enjoys this activity, he might also factor in the worth of coupons.

  • Graph prices over time. Are certain brands always less expensive? When prices change, can he guess why?

For more information about helping children learn, go to To submit your own question, use the form at
. All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2006, The Parent Institute

[Text from syndicated column received from The Parent Institute]

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