Category Archives: Measurement

“Exploring the math shelf #1” – How to pick math books for a meaningful discussion

I often write about how much I enjoy listening to a child making sense of a math problem. But something I find quite fulfilling as well is reading books with my children (any child, actually). No need to say that I am quite excited about our new journey, “Exploring the math shelf”, that takes us weekly to our public library to explore their selection of math books.

Before I start discussing books we have checked out, I thought that sharing our book selection process could be helpful as well. It has indeed been working quite well for us, considering the math discussions that have popped up at our house in the past few weeks.

At some point, I expect, well, I hope, my kids will be naturally attracted to the math section, and pick math books on their own. For now though, I think they count on me to do so :-).

  1. FullSizeRender-1I usually do not have any specific math books in mind when I arrive at the library. I like to browse the shelf.
  2. Often, I take several books around a math concept my kids have been talking about, such as place value, multiplication or fractions.
  3. I try to mix stories (e.g. “Earth Day – Hooray”, by S. J. Murphy and R Andriani, a story illustrating place value) with books specifically detailing a math concept  (e.g. Place Value, by D. A. Adler). That way, we can have an informal math talk while reading a story, and have access to other more detailed sources if my children raise a particular math question.

Once home, we read books when we feel like it. Sometimes at night, sometimes during the day. Unlike with the story books, we rarely read our “math” books from beginning to the end. Rather, we discuss a page or two at a time, such as page 8-11 in Place Value, where the number system is compared to the alphabet. But we go back to the books several times during the week.

One more thing: I do read the math books with my kids. Indeed, you would be surprised by the imprecision, and even inaccuracies you may find in math books. I checked out recently a book about multiplication, and was quite excited to see that the equations included the units. I always encourage my child Rosie, 8,  to do the same when she solves problems (e.g. 2 cats + 3 cats = 5 cats). Indeed, there is no need to wait for a Chemistry course to begin such a helpful habit. Alas, in the book, to illustrate 2 baskets containing each 7 tomatoes , the equation was:

7 tomatoes X 2 baskets = 14 tomatoes.

Somehow, magically, the “basket” unit disappeared (to produce more tomatoes???). Now if the equation had been written as follow, I would have highly recommended the book:

7 tomatoes/basket  X  2 baskets = 14 tomatoes.

I have to say, though, that once you are aware of possible misconceptions, and discuss such eventualities with your child, it opens a new door to more meaningful math. Rosie is now on a new quest:  “See, Mom?  They say that you have to use the zero mark when you use a ruler. But you don’t have to ! It is easier, but you don’t have to !”. Never too early to become a critical reader.

Have fun reading !

An activity from

I was contacted recently by requesting that I post one of their hand-on activities. Since a component of blogging I truly value is supporting others on a similar journey, I decided to agree !

If you like the activity, you may want to check out their website, they have many more

Activity : Tip the Scales for Estimation
Fifth Grade Math Activities: Tip the Scales for EstimationOkay, checking addition problems can be boring. Solving a math problem twice can be tedious. But finding the total weight of a group of family members can be hilarious, especially if your child is calculating and estimating the weight of a diverse group of subjects, like an 8 lb. cat, a 22 lb. toddler, and a 180 lb. grandpa!
  • Bathroom scale
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Family members

What You Do:

  1. Have your child record the weight of several willing family members. Have a scale available, if needed. These family members can include parents, siblings, grandparents, aunt and uncles, cousins and pets.
  2. Ask your child to add up the weights of all the participants to find the total number of pounds the group weighs.
  3. Using estimation, have your child check to see if his calculated results are reasonable. Suggest to your child that he first estimate the weight of each individual to the nearest ten pounds or five pounds. This is especially important if the individual is a pet. Sometimes it’s hard for kids to estimate the weight of adults. If your child’s estimation is not reasonable, suggest a more reasonable number. Then ask him to add all of the estimated numbers together.
  4. Have your child compare his estimation to his calculation. Discuss the use of estimation to verify, or check, calculations. Give examples of how this tool can be helpful in real world situations. If you’d like to extend the activity, start thinking about multiplication and division. How many cats would weigh the same a grandpa? How many baby sisters would weigh the same as Dad? Have fun calculating the numbers, and with your family, too!

For more activities:


Field trip to Timeland

My daughter has been working on reading time at School. When we did one of our WedWoPro problems on time (here), I could tell that she was  quite curious about it. She started asking questions about clocks: do they all have numbers? Do they all have 2 hands? Are they all round?

Why don’t we go on a field trip, Rosie?

Now, hearing “field trip” always works like magic with my kids.  When? Where? What do we need to bring? Could we have a picnic there?

Saturday. Craft store. Camera. Well…

If your child is talking about time, give it a try. It is a lot of fun, and of course, any store with a large selection of clocks will do.

We saw numerous of clocks …


… found additional topics to discuss… (e.g. How about these, Rosie? How do they relate to clocks ?)


… and as often with field trips, unexpected moments of excitement… a number line,  right in front of us (I know, looks more like a ruler to me, may be time to find an activity to connect number lines and rulers :-)

Number line

We ended up with the plan of making our own clock. A Summer project, I reckon.


We sure will continue our exploration of time, who knows where it is going to take us.



Click # 5 – A classic, right ?

Spotting anything related to Math, and take a picture of it : “Click” is a quick picture-post to help you show your kids that Math is indeed all around.

Who hasn’t done that as a kid? How old was the tree???



Exploring money a little further …

Quick post to complete what I wrote earlier this week (here). Somehow I forgot to include another relevant book about money. Let me address that.


Indeed, the book “If you made a million” (by D. M. Schwartz and illustrated by S. Kellogg) provides a nice support to extend the discussion my child and I started with Dollars and Cents for Harriet (B and G Maestro). It goes from coins, to bills, to checks, or how $10 could be paid through 1 ten-dollar bill, 2 five-dollar bills or… a 5-inch pile of dimes. It even includes bank accounts and interests, as well as choices you have to make when you have money (e.g. spending, saving, both).

Another great resource to explore money !

Talking about time with young children

I often wondered the best approach to talk about time with my young kids. Until I saw a birthday celebration at my son’s Montessori School.

A representation of the sun is set up in the middle of the carpet. The birthday child holds a representation of the Earth. And starts walking. First rotation around the sun, first year, second rotation, second year, and so on until the child has had the Earth rotated around the Sun the number of years that has passed since he/she was born.

How brilliant.Earth&Sun

Years. Month. Weeks. Hours. Minutes. Second. All, somewhat connected to our Sun and dearly Earth.

Both of my kids  have been quite receptive to this concept.

“You mean the Earth has turned THAT many times around the sun since you were born???”

I know. I can’t believe it either.