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Learn to Shop, Shop to Learn! Exploring Mathematics

Learn to Shop, Shop to Learn! Exploring Mathematics

Published: 08/15/2011 by by

» Learning Resources
»» Mathematics

Making math relevant and interesting is key to helping children learn what can seem like difficult and abstract concepts.  For mathematics, you don’t have to look far to find someplace where you can apply concepts to real life.  My favourite place to go is IKEA.

Teachable moments abound in IKEA’s child-friendly, exciting atmosphere. It is suitable for students of all ages. Young learners find that there are long, disposable rulers available throughout the store, ready to measure any and all items. For older children, detailed specifications of each product are provided on easy to read, clear labels.  Secondary students could spend hours discussing the mock-ups of space saving apartments, discovering more about area and volume, thinking about design and function, and bridging the gap between mathematical concept and real-life application.

The opportunities for mathematics do not cease with simple measurement.  In my experience an abundance of students are interested in math only because of its relation to money.  Being a retail store, prices are everywhere!  Students can be given a budget and outfit their dream room; they can purchase an inexpensive lunch, calculating cost and change; they can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and percentages using displays and catalogues.

The learning opportunities are endless! Scavenger hunts designed to address learning goals for any age group could be created.  For the very young: how many different kinds of stuffed animals are offered for sale?  What shapes do you see in this area?  What colours?  For older students: estimation of total numbers of products, size of departments, volume of the store.  Students at any age will discover something new and exciting if given the chance. Be sure to schedule enough time in case everyone gets carried away with what they are doing and don’t want to leave!

Extension projects can branch out from the initial visit.  IKEA often showcases information about their designers and the theories behind their products. Students could learn more about how items are developed and then create their own product.  Discussions about want versus need, economics, materials, social norms and societal structure could arise as students venture further into the background of something seemingly simple like furniture.

If you don’t have an IKEA near you or a visit is impractical see if you can use IKEA’s catalogue.  The catalogue contains a wide variety of product information including pricing, sizes and functions.  Learners could compare the print material to their own furniture and belongings.  IKEA information is also available online. IKEA is simply a starting point. You could visit a local hardware or grocery store to get some hands-on learning. Arm your child(ren) with a ruler, a notepad and a pencil (or a laptop and calculator!) and send them out to discover for themselves why math is really important for them to learn.