When are we going to be there? How far are we going? How far did we come?
Do these questions sound familiar? Perhaps you remember asking the adults around you as a child or have an inquisitive youngster yourself. We’re nearing various school breaks during which you might find yourself traveling with kids who ask these or even more creative questions. Think of it as an opportunity to encourage them to work for their answers and, in the process, learn and practice problem solving strategies. You know, better to teach a person to fish and all.
This takes a little bit work for us adults to facilitate, but it will make for much more satisfying conversation given that the same old questions are bound to come up whenever sitting/walking for any length of time is involved. Discussion questions and relevant information regarding these “travel problems” can be a part of the fun. For instance, “Well, if we are driving an average of 50mph, how many hours will it take to travel the 250 miles to our destination?” is one place to start when asked the very popular question, “When are we gonna be there?” These teachable moments can turn into extraordinary conversations, all the while using very real world math. For more ideas about how to have fun with math on the road, you can visit About Education.
Now, we adults may not be held up on as high a pedestal as if we appeared to be all-knowing, answer machines. But a little bit of real world, figuring-stuff-out problem solving can lead to “a-ha!” moments for the kids in our lives. The skills they’ll learn will certainly serve them well, near and far.