I have always loved math. In fact, I once taught math in fifth through eighth grades. Math is orderly, straightforward and tends to have a right answer. I’ve noticed, however that my eight grandkids seem to lean away from the fun of math. Wow! It occurred to me that it might be up to me to give them a window into this exciting area of their educational experience. How does this grandpa proceed you ask?
Make it every day.
My wife and I recently had an opportunity to take three of our middle school grands to an outdoor activity. We could have made the ride in silence—something they might have preferred at 7:30 a.m.—or we could use the time for “Papa math questions.”
“Who knows what road we are traveling on? I asked.
“Farm Road 156,” one of them volunteered.
“Is that divisible by 2?” I asked.
“Sure,” said the youngest grand. “It’s even”.
“Will three go evenly into to I56?”
One grand said “Yes,” while another said “No,” and the third sat in silent contemplation.
“Does anyone remember the divisible rules?” I continued.
We racked our brains and came up with the following:
- Any even number (ending in 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8) is divisible by 2.
- If the sum of a number’s digits is divisible by 3, the number is divisible by 3. For example, the digits in 156 add up to 12 (1 + 5 + 6 = 12). 12 is evening divisible by 3, so 156 is evenly divisible by 3.
We continued in this way, working our way from 4 up to 10.
I told them I loved the rules for divisibility of both 6 and 7.
“Why?” they asked.
I replied, “6 works if the rule for 2 and 3 both work on the number.”
“And why do you like 7, Papa?” they persisted.
“It is the other side of the question,” I tell them. “There is no rule to help; you must do the division.”
They were not sure they loved that idea.
Back to Farm Road 156:
Divisible by 2? Yes. 3? Yes. 4? Yes. 6? Yes. And finally 13? Yes.
“I also love 13,” I inform them. “13 is a naughty little number that does not play well with others, but it is prime.”
We then launched off into the list of prime numbers. They are a fun lot. Can you list them?
All too soon we arrived at our destination. We did not finish this activity, but there’s always next time.
Opportunities to learn math skills are all around. Just be on the lookout for numbers, shapes, and patterns as you go about your day, and before you know it, you’ll help your kids learn math while playing hopscotch on the driveway, building with blocks, or tracking stats at a baseball game.
Math is so much fun I’m already planning for our next trip.
Paul Baker is husband to one, dad to two, grandfather to eight, and recently retired school principal.