We want the girls to sit at the table until everyone is finished eating (or at least wait for each other). So after talking about the activities of the day, we get a little creative to keep them in their seats. And so “dinner math” was born. There are plenty of things around the table to show math “in the real world” plus they are a captive audience. 🙂 I realize it’s probably not the best table manners to turn dinner time into a math game, so feel free to ignore this if it doesn’t fit with your family.

Some ideas….

**Babies**

- Count the pieces of food on her tray.
- Count the number of bites while you spoon-feed her.
- Talk about the shapes of the food.
- Use words to compare amounts such as “There are more banana slices than crackers on your plate.”

**Toddler/Preschooler**

- Identify 2D and 3D shapes of the food, plates, cups, and even the table itself. “Can you find a circle? How about a cylinder?”
- Count items on the table. “How many plates are on the table? How many forks?”
- Use items on the table for simple addition problems. If they are stumped, help them count the items. “I see two forks and two spoons. How many pieces of silverware in all?”
- Compare numbers. “Do you have more apple slices or carrots on your plate?”

**Elementary**

- Use table items or food for addition and subtraction problems. “How many forks + spoons + bowls are on the table?”
- Ask problems where you can’t count items on the table to find the answer. “I bought fifteen potatoes and cooked six of them for dinner. How many are still in the bag?”
- Skip count using table items. “Each person has a cup and a plate. Count by twos to find how many there are in all.”
- Estimate and count to find out how many. “How many green beans do you think are on your plate?”
- Eat in a pattern. Take a bite of one thing, then two bites of another food, and see if they can continue the pattern!
- Talk about fractions. “Please eat at least half of your dinner. ” 🙂
- Ask random addition, subtraction, or multiplication facts. But don’t stop there!*

*Some kids love getting quizzed on math facts. So, if your kids enjoy it- go ahead! Drill and practice of facts WILL make math easier for them. But don’t forget to talk about the “why” behind the answer. Talking about the process of solving a problem helps kids develop logical thinking and better number sense. They will use those skills as the math gets more complex. So after you ask “What’s 6 +7?” ask “How did you figure that out?” or How do you know that is the correct answer?” Usually kids will say, “I just knew it.” Talk through some ideas like “Well, 6+6=12 and 7 is one more than 6. So the answer to 6+7 is one more than 12.” Or maybe you know the fact 7+7=14 so 6+7 is one less. Or maybe you break apart the 7 into 3+4 and you know 6+4=10, then it is easy to add on 3 more to make 13. Explaining mathematical thinking will benefit kids even more than memorization. Besides, what else are you going to do while you wait for them to eat their peas?

My daughter loves counting her food. We teach during meals too. It is amazing how they learn from every little thing that they do. They are amazing.