Math Used At the Grocery Store

Math is one of those skills we use in everyday life, especially in the grocery store. You have to go shopping anyway, so why not make the store your mathematical playground? There are a number of different skills that can be practiced before and during your grocery run. Begin by sharing your approximate budget for the trip and have your child help you create a list of items you need to buy and you can take off from there.

Math Used At The Grocery Store For example:

  • Estimation
    1. Show the produce scale to your child and explain that each pound is divided into 16 ounces. Tell him how many pounds of fruit you wish to purchase and weigh the fruit you've picked out. Ask him to estimate how many much more you need to bring it to the desired weight.
    2. Before you check out, let your child examine the full cart. Ask him to estimate how many bags it will take to pack away all of the items. He can also estimate the total cost of the cart.
    3. Provide your child with two different types of vegetables that weigh approximately the same amount (potatoes and onions work well). Have him put one in each hand and estimate which one is heavier, then use the scale to test his estimation
  • Addition/Subtraction
    1. Use the shopping list on which your child estimate the cost of the items. Have him add up his estimated total and subtract it from your budget. If his estimation is under budget, ask him how much money you'll have left over. If it's over budget, have him help you figure out by how much and where you can cut that cost.
    2. Ask your child to look at the total cost of the groceries and tell him how much money you are giving to the cashier. Have him calculate the change you should receive and then count it to make sure it's correct
    3. Provide your child with the receipt to see the final total. Ask him to create a word problem representing the cost vs. his estimated cost. For example:Our groceries cost $100, but I thought we'd pay $117. How much less were the groceries than I expected?
  • Comparison
    1. Compare the costs of different brands of items, looking at the size of the package and deciding which is the better deal for the money. Older children (4th and 5th graders) should be able to do the actual calculations to decide the best deal. For example: You can buy 2 pounds of grapes for $2.00 or 3 pounds of grapes for $3.50. Have your child divide the cost by the amount food to find the unit price. $2.00/2= $1.00 per pound vs. $3.50/3=$1.16 per pound. Thus, the cost for 2 pounds is the better price.
    2. Compare the actual cost of your groceries to your child's earlier estimation.
    3. Compare the quality items vs. the cost per unit and discuss whether quality (i.e. taste, presentation) makes a difference in terms of getting the best deal.
  • Multiplication
    1. Take your child through the produce section and point out how the fruits and vegetables are priced per pound or per each. Provide him a piece of scratch paper and ask him to calculate how much it would cost to purchase three apples or four pounds of grapes. This lesson can be extended at home by using the sales flyer to calculate the sale price vs. the regular price.
  • Money
    1. Sit down with your child and the sales flyer. Give him an assortment of coins and bills to work with. Then, pick a few items in the flyer and ask him to show you the correct cost using his money.
    2. Provide older children with coupons, the sales flyer and a calculator. Ask them to figure out how much certain items would cost if you used the coupons. Extension questions: Is it worth it to buy the more expensive brand with the coupon or is the generic still cheaper? Does that change if the store has a double coupon policy?

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