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Teaching at Home

Math and Science - Right at Home!
Using Everyday Materials and Experiences to Teach Essential Concepts

by Jean Potter
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Book Cover Image. Title: The Everything Kids' Science Experiments Book, Author: by Tom Robinson, Tom Robinson

The Everything Kids' Science Experiments Bookby Tom RobinsonTom Robinson

  • $6.66 Online Price

Every American household holds a plethora of educational adventures. We simply need to teach our children with the tools that are already at our disposal. Teaching science and math are particularly easy at home, because these subject areas are virtually everywhere. And best of all, they are interrelated.

Math is a vital part of science, which helps makes teaching easy. In math, we use estimating, counting, concluding, sorting, calculating, and patterning - but we also need these skills for science.

How You Can Make Math and Science Fun and Interesting

Most parents and teachers shudder at the thought of teaching science and math concepts, but both subjects can really be fun and easy to understand. That's because simple math and science experiences can be spontaneous. Children can even learn these concepts at the dinner table, and these conversations can be very simple. For example, have kids look at the patterns in the dinner dishes, and then ask if all the plates are equal in proportion, or if the pattern is proportionate on smaller plates. Questions like this can lead to good scientific observations and discoveries, as well as math computations.

Parents don't generally think of themselves as math or science teachers, but nothing can be further from the truth. Mixing the potato salad for a picnic or repairing the cord on a lamp demonstrates scientific skills. Activities like these offer children perfect opportunities for learning. Include children in everyday chores, such as cleaning a household appliance. Or before you throw out that old radio or TV, take it apart and see what is inside. All of the elements can be counted, sorted, and thoroughly inspected - which in turn leads to some interesting discussions. Activities like these encourage and support the child's natural curiosity by showing them how to observe, participate, question, and make connections. As the teacher, you can help foster critical thinking, problem solving, and communication.

Fortunately, teaching math and science at home doesn't require any special materials or equipment. One only needs to see the obvious. There are multiple opportunities to discuss floating and sinking, saturation, motion and movement, colors, sizes, shapes, and other concepts.

Finding interesting science and math experiments and materials is very easy. Learning at home doesn't require any expensive investments, so it is really a positive and economical experience for parents, as well as a smart and productive way to teach children.

Where to Find Extraordinary Learning Opportunities

The kitchen is an excellent place to begin - even making breakfast offers a variety of rich opportunities. Place a carton of eggs on the table and use it as a discussion topic on a morning when the children are not rushing off to school. The discussion will be enriching and thought provoking. Some questions to consider are: Why do eggs come in packages of 12? What makes their shell hard? What are the names of the different slimy insides? What is the difference between brown and white eggs? If you don't know the answer, you and your child can do the research together.

Questions like those at the breakfast table offer simple, educational discussion topics, which will lead to further interest. Children can read more about eggs by researching and reading books. For younger children, the book, First the Egg, offers some follow-up to the breakfast discussion. This book explores the stages of development in the natural world, which takes the child much further into the subject. Another noteworthy book, An Egg is Quiet, celebrates the diversity of eggs while emphasizing size, shape, coloration, and where they might be found. Children will also enjoy learning that they can eat their science projects, according to the well-known author, Vicki Cobb. In Science Experiments You Can Eat, Vicki helps parents convert their kitchen into a laboratory worthy of a mad scientist. Children and parents will make startling scientific discoveries and then eat them!

Kitchen exploration projects can offer children lots of opportunities to learn. They can experiment with using measuring cups to determine which bowl holds the largest amount of cereal. It is also interesting to read the box to find the contents of the cereal. Kids can explore the production process to learn more about the foods they enjoy. The book From Corn to Cereal traces the production of cereal from corn to the big box. But who invented cereal? The fascinating story of W.K. Kellogg is very simply explained in the book, The Cornflake King: W. K. Kellogg and His Amazing Cereal. Reading books like these not only inform children, they may also motivate them to make their own discoveries.

Other Fascinating Resources to Help Motivate Children

How did we ever survive without the dishwasher, microwave, and even the refrigerator? Children today have never known life without these products, but many adults remember their first dishwasher or their first microwave. Studying appliances leads to discovery, so you and your child can open the dishwasher and look inside in order to explore its inner workings. A wonderful follow-up book to this activity is How Things Work (Questions and Answers), which provides explanations about the way many machines and gadgets work. If a child cannot put this book down, there are others that further their interest, such as Marshall Brain's MORE How STUFF Works. This book expands knowledge into learning how X-ray machines can "see through" a body, what information is contained in a UPC bar code, plus plenty of other topics on a wide range of subjects.

Having Fun, Learning, and Experimenting With Water

Most kids are fascinated by water. They like to play in it, but have no idea how the water gets to the house. Turn on the Faucet clearly explains the process in easy-to-understand terms. After learning about the purification process, encourage the child to filter some dirty water. This experiment involves gathering a clear plastic 2 liter soda bottle, scissors, soil, sand, gravel, cotton balls, a glass of dirty water (make your own by adding cooking oil, tiny pieces of dirt and fabric fibers, tiny Styrofoam pieces, etc.), and a spoon. To do the experiment, follow these steps:
  1. Have your young scientist turn the bottle upside down and measure 2 inches from the bottom of the bottle.
  2. Cut that "lid" part away to create a funnel.
  3. Determine which order the filtering materials (soil, sand, gravel, cotton balls) might be best used so they can filter the water.
  4. Next, place the soil, sand, gravel, and cotton balls in the funnel, put a clear glass bowl on the working surface, and work with the funnel over the glass bowl.
  5. Finally, remove the lid, pour the dirty water through the funnel/filter, and watch the water filter.
Having Fun? More to Try

Experimenting with science and understanding math concepts can be a wonderful learning experience for both adult and child. There are many books on the market that provide easy-to-do experiments that can be joint learning experiences. Several suggestions for good ones include: By working together in the comfort of the home environment, parents and children can learn together. The goals and objectives we establish with our children will instill a life-long adventure in questioning, researching, and problem solving, which will serve to benefit all involved.  
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Meet Our Expert
Jean Potter
Former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education
Jean Potter is a former Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education for the U.S. Department of Education where she was responsible for the country's elementary and secondary programs, during the Reagan Administration. She was the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Education as well.

Mrs. Potter was also the program manager for Early Childhood Education in the West Virginia Department of Education. While there, she was responsible for the successful implementation of the largest funded education program in the state's history. She was a lead kindergarten teacher and a member of the prestigious White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. She is the recipient of Edinboro University's most distinguished alumnae award.

Mrs. Potter is also an award-winning author and continues to write books, articles, and programs that enhance the educational development of children.
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Book Cover Image. Title: Science in Seconds for Kids:  Over 100 Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less, Author: by Jean Potter, Jean Potter

Science in Seconds for Kidsby Jean PotterJean Potter

  • $11.82 Online Price