Leaping leprechauns! With daylight growing longer, the school year growing shorter, and spring break growing closer, kids have ample opportunities to think about and apply time and math concepts in colorful, yet practical ways.
For example, as everyone adjusts to “springing ahead” in daylight saving time, let kids calculate what it “buys” them. According to a Reference.com post titled, “How Many Minutes of Daylight Do People Gain Each Day?” “As the sun moves higher in the sky from March through June, there are about two more minutes of daylight per day.” Test your child’s addition and multiplication skills by asking them how much more light they will gain by the end of the week. How about end of the month?
Or maybe younger kids are still wrestling with learning to tell time. For them the Telling Time Flash Cards (Android app) can make it more fun. After all, even in a world of digital clocks and LED displays, “20 minutes from now” and “2:30” are essential calculations! Or take along a pack of Time & Money Flash Cards. Their real-world problems give kids big practice reading digital and analog clocks and counting money.
Though the math involved is pretty deeply embedded, the Fact Site, in “20 Marvelous Facts About March,” points out that “Every year March and June finish on the same day of the week.” As another fun fact, the “first day of spring” almost always falls on March 20 or 21. This year, however, it arrives 3/19, and according to a recent Farmer’s Almanac article about the equinox, by Catherine Boeckmann, “The last time spring arrived this early was in 1896—a whopping 124 years ago!”
A rather cool thing to picture is that on the equinox, “the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world.”
Before the official arrival of spring, and right before St. Patrick’s Day, is Pi Day, which has a dedicated organization—and website—piday.org. They even sell merch, including fun t-shirts, joking that “the compliments you’ll receive will go on and on, just like the digits of pi.”
Pi is an irrational number, which the site defines as “a decimal with no end and no repeating pattern.” It also notes that “The study of pi begins around middle school, when students learn about circumference and area of circles,” adding that “The definition of pi gives us a way to calculate circumference.”
To give kids at that level a little extra practice, consider this 64-page Math Basics Grade 6 Workbook. Featured skill areas include area and volume, fractions and decimals, ratios, probability, and more. It reviews earlier math skills, as it also helps advance into areas such as geometry and operational order.
In addition to spring itself, kids are probably also excitedly counting down the days until spring break. If your family is planning a skiing trip, check out Bill Jennings’ “The Physics and Mathematics of Skiing.”
Jennings, a correspondent for Spokane’s The Spokesman-Review, by way of reviewing a book by David Lind and Scott P. Sanders titled, The Physics of Skiing: Skiing at the Triple Point, explores some of the math and science behind the thrill of the slopes. He says one of the reasons the authors chose their title is that “skiing works best at the triple point of water, a magic zone where water’s three possible states—solid, liquid and vapor—coexist.”
They also address how skiing employs Newton’s three laws of motion, playing out in multiple ways. Jennings says, “When you ski, a lot of forces are at work on your body in motion…” They include “velocity, acceleration, mass, angular motion, torque, momentum, gravity…aerodynamic drag and lift, friction, and…the reaction force of the snow.”
Even a grade schooler might get a kick out of knowing how many forces they are working with—and against!—whether mastering the bunny hill or a black diamond run.
If, on the other hand, your family vacation will be one of surf and sand, check out “Ocean Science Activities for Preschoolers and Beyond,” from Little Bins for Little Hands. Making Ocean Slime, with the “color and shimmer of the ocean” will likely become a year-round favorite that also evokes great memories on the beach. A similarly versatile project is making starfish or sea stars with a simple salt dough recipe. The site says, “Learn about these amazing sea creatures while modeling out your own to keep.”
Clearly, March is a threshold month. Spring into big fun and a little math practice!