It’s summer, that beautiful time of year when fresh produce abounds. From plants and flowers to fruit and vegetables, you’ll find a splendor of freshness when you visit your local Farmer’s market. There are numerous health, economic and environmental benefits to buying locally grown food, but did you know that the Farmer’s market can also offer a rich Math learning environment to keep your kids inspired in the summer.

Whatever the age of your child, there is always a math concept to learn at the market.Math at the Farmers Market Younger kids can be encouraged to count and correlate; “How many bananas do we need so each person in the family gets one?” Teach your child to use fingers when calling out the names of members in your family. If you have a small notebook handy, or your smart phone with a writing application, motivate your child to make tally marks or write numerals next to items on a list to indicate how many. Call out the numerals you see at the market and compare them, for example, “These apples are 2 for a dollar, but the bananas are 3 for a dollar. We get more bananas than apples for a dollar”. Geometry abounds at the market; help them notice spheres, rectangles, circles and angles everywhere.

Elementary school kids will enjoy assisting with money at the market. Introduce different Canadian coins to them and the ways in which these coins can be used. “We don’t have a dollar, but you can use four quarters instead”. A bunch of cucumber can be a great primer to fractions. “Three cucumbers cost 2 dollars, so one cucumber would cost 2/3 of a dollar.” Lessons on decimals and estimation can follow when your child asks what 2/3 of a dollar is. “Divide a dollar into 3 parts – so hundred cents into 3 parts, roughly 33.3 cents. Two parts of this is 66.6 cents. Since we don’t use pennies any more, we can estimate that a cucumber costs 65 cents.”

Older kids can be given a budget and asked to handle money by themselves. Math is more fun when you have money to spend! They can walk the market before buying as prices for the same goods can vary from stand to stand. Once they check out all the vendors selling the items on your list, encourage them to take note of the prices and quality and then go back to make your purchases. Counting calories and other nutrients on any labelled jams or preserves is another way to combine math and shopping. “What are the least expensive foods with the most nutrients?”

Show them how Fibonacci numbers are everywhere in nature, even at the market! “What about a banana? Count how many “flat” surfaces it is made from – is it 3 or perhaps 5? When you’ve peeled it, cut it in half, look again. Surprise! There’s a Fibonacci number.” Look for other examples around you, notice if a cauliflower or lettuce is particularly interesting.

Are you ready to introduce your teenager to Calculus? Encourage them to predict the rates of change of various quantities. If you keep track of the price of produce over a few weeks, you can predict the prices for a reasonable time further considering the rate of change. Talk to them about profit margins, inflation and value.

Math is not only useful, but also fun; it’s beautiful; just like a trip to your local farmers market!

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