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Teaching Problem-Solving Skills Through Summer Projects

A great way to help your students learn problem-solving skills is to give them opportunities to use math outside a textbook, guiding them through figuring out what information they know, what they need to know, and what steps they can take to get from one to the other. And summertime is a great time of year to work on problem solving.

Below are a few summertime math project ideas to illustrate the point. While the specifics will vary based on your project, a few potential questions are listed under each heading to illustrate the different types of things you could have your child use math to find.

  • Home Improvement ProjectsHow much paint do we need for a room? How much fertilizer do we need for the lawn? Which is the cheaper way to buy the paint/fertilizer? How wide should we make a shelf to leave 12 inches on either side?
  • CanningHow much fruit do we have? If 1 pound of peaches produces a certain number of cups of canned peaches, how many cups of canned peaches will we be able to make if you buy 10 pounds of peaches? How about if we buy 20 pounds? How much will all that cost? How much change will we get back if you pay $40 cash? How many jars will we need to hold the canned peaches? If we have to double a recipe, how much of each ingredient do we need now? If it takes 20 minutes to do the actual canning, 40 minutes to prep the fruit, and 5 hours to cool, what time do we need to start to finish by 6 pm?
  • Road TripsHow much should we expect the trip to cost us [add up admission prices, fuel costs (let the student figure out that he needs to find this by figuring out the number of miles you plan on traveling and the car’s average miles per gallon), food, souvenirs, etc.)]? What time do we need to leave if it takes 8 hours and we need 45 minutes for rest stops, 1 ½ hours for lunch, and 1 hour for traffic…and need to arrive by 5 pm?
  • HobbiesHow much fabric do we need to make this shirt? Is there enough fabric on the two spools combined? How many yards of ribbon will we need? How many feet of wood? How would we enlarge this birdhouse pattern?

Did any other summer projects that use math come to mind? Please leave a comment and share!

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