One of the biggest problems educators face from students (and the occasional parent) is the dreaded question “When am I going to use this in real life?” Although this may be trickier with some fields, for me math has always been one of the easiest to justify. Numbers are a universal language that everyone speaks (or at least they should). Elementary age students should be soaking up a variety of skills every single week and practicing these skills is a must. One of the skills that we as adults take for granted is rounding because of the way it comes in handy each and every day.
Rounding a number is to the nearest ten, hundred, or thousand is a common activity for early elementary grade students and is very useful when it comes to estimating. For instance, you can have your child round the cost of products to the nearest dollar to estimate their cost and then add them to estimate if they have enough money to purchase the items. You might show your child this real world implication by showing them three products: one worth $3.50, one worth $5.25, and one worth $1.99. If your child rounds these costs to the nearest dollar they are worth $4, $5, and $2 respectively for a total of $11 dollars. Then ask them if they have enough to buy all three items with a ten dollar bill and if not which item should they put back to make the purchase. This type of real world math is great for showing your child that math isn’t just some “boring” subject that only nerds and teachers care about. It has real world applications that they need to know if they ever plan on going shopping and spending any of that hard-earned money they plan on making as rock stars or video game designers.
Another good way to practice these skills is with online games. Math Nook (www.mathnook.com) has recently added four exceptional games which help children practice their rounding. My personal favorite is Math Boat in which children can practice rounding numbers as they steer a boat around safely collecting life rings and parking the boat. If you are into retro-gaming, you might also like to encourage your child to check out MathMan Rounding which features a certain ghost-chomping video game character helping your child learn how to round numbers. The great thing about these games is that they are not just educational, but they are also free and safe to use on your computer. (You won’t have to worry about those nasty computer viruses that pop-up from other kids’ websites which claim to be there to help your child.)
Most of our children aren’t looking for a reason to get out of work. They just want to know that what they are doing will have a real payoff in the end. What better way to show them that math is important than to make it fun and show them how it fits into the real world?