Learning Functional Math Life Skills in Everyday Activities


Believe it or not, opportunities for teaching and learning functional math skills are everywhere! As a homeschooling mom, some of my favorite kid-friendly activities revolve around learning life skills. After all, I want to do everything I can to make sure they grow into independent & confident adults. Being well-versed in life skills plays a big part in that goal!

Learning Functional Math Life Skills in Everyday Activities

Before I had my two boys, I was a special education teacher in a self-contained classroom. I was responsible for teaching my students all of the core content subjects and, since my students were all on the autism spectrum, social skills and life skills instruction was also provided. Teaching functional life skills lessons were my absolute favorite because, in my honest opinion, the life lessons learned would stick with my students far beyond any core content lesson. Learning functional life skills is invaluable and will surely benefit a child (or adult!) for their entire life!

When it comes to learning functional math skills, you really don’t have to look very far for inspiration. There’s plenty to teach and learn just by completing typical everyday activities!

Functional Math Skills at Home

Even though we don’t always spend our homeschooling days at home (we’d rather go on field trips or travel!), there’s still plenty of learning happening while we’re in the house! When my kids aren’t taking care of their lessons on their laptops, I do what I can to encourage them to participate in a variety of hands-on activities that (shhh, don’t tell them!) are actually educational.

Since we tend to spend most of our time in the kitchen, laundry room, and family room, I’m happy to share examples of ways my kids learn math skills in those rooms.

Learning in the Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the busiest areas in our home. We are self-proclaimed foodies so we’re always making new dishes and, inevitably, washing dishes after enjoying the fruits of our labor.

The kitchen isn’t just for eating, though! Kitchens offer plenty of opportunities for learning functional math skills like:

  • measuring ingredients with measuring spoons, measuring cups, and scales
  • multiplying ingredient amounts when doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling recipes
  • dividing ingredients when halving a recipe
  • knowing & distinguishing the various units of measurement included in the Imperial and Metric System
  • determining how many items are needed for place settings for various numbers of guests

Learning in the Laundry Room

Between all the clothing my kids wear (read: dirty) for their various activities, my kids and I spend a good amount of time in the Laundry Room as well. Opportunities to learn functional math skills in the laundry room are bountiful as well!

When my kids and I aren’t busy folding clothes in the laundry room, we’re working on math skills like:

  • figuring out water:cleaning liquid ratios for concentrated stain removers
  • sorting dirty clothes by color
  • matching up pairs of socks by color or pattern
  • estimating when the washing machine or dryer will be done by adding the cycle time to the current time
  • determining the correct dates to use washing machine cleaner tablets that are to be used once every six months

Learning in the Family Room

Other than the kitchen, we probably spend most of our time at home in the Family Room. Our Family Room hosts the television, video games, and books, so there’s plenty of opportunity for fun and (you guessed it) learning in there!

Some ways my kids work on their functional math skills in the family room are by:

  • figuring out the HD channel equivalent to the SD channel they’re currently watching (spoiler alert: the SD number plus the number 100 equals the HD channel for our service provider)
  • subtracting the number of book pages they’ve already read from the number of book pages I’ve assigned so they know “how much longer?”
  • adding or subtracting numbers on the thermostat when I ask them to change the temperature in the house
  • counting out the number of window cleaner sprays and paper towels used when cleaning the windows
  • grouping holiday decorations in groups of odd numbers because art compositions are most pleasing when in odd numbers

Functional Math Skills Outside of the Home

Running errands and traveling with kids isn’t always the easiest, but I can tell you that it’s certainly worth it! There are so many learning opportunities to be had outside of the home. A few ways my kids are able to work on learning math skills while out and about are by:

  • figuring out the best price for an item at the grocery store by dividing the total price by the unit measurement or piece count
  • determining the total savings and price of an item when it is a certain percentage or dollar amount discounted
  • calculating the amount of time it’ll take to reach a destination depending on the distance and speed
  • using a calculator to help stay on budget while shopping and to estimate the amount of taxes that will need to be added to that total
  • estimating the amount of food to purchase based on serving sizes and meals that will be made at home that week
  • dividing bags of purchases evenly between each child so everyone is holding an even amount

See? I bet your kids have been learning functional math skills even without realizing it! There are so many ways to learn through hands-on experiences, aren’t there?

Are there any ways your kids learn everyday math skills that I missed? There are so many different ways to learn functional math skills through hands-on and everyday experiences that I am sure I missed (quite) a few! Help out your fellow homeschooling parents by leaving a comment below!

Elizabeth Dukart

About the author

Elizabeth Dukart is a special education teacher turned blogging homeschool mom of three boys (2 human and 1 canine), wife, foodie, and proud Jersey Girl. She believes learning...and life...should be meaningful, memorable, and fun!

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