using the calculator: breakfast time learning

using the calculator: breakfast time learningBreakfast has long been a time for sneaking in some learning over here, but it’s not always easy.

It’s certainly not every single day.

Some days everyone’s up and ready to walk out the door with 30 minutes to spare; other days, I’m that crazy, frazzled parent yelling for kids to hurry up and chew so they leave the house with full bellies and two matching shoes.

One day this week, there just happened to be a calculator on the snack bar, and there just happened to be an Owen who woke up early with math on his mind.

And there just happened to be about 10 minutes to spare before we had to walk out of the door and up the hill to school.

So with the newspaper close and us having just read about the day’s weather, Owen–and Maddy and Cora–were lucky enough to have a quick ‘Calculator 101’ and little mathy-math chat before school, talking about estimating, comparing, and evaluating.

Love it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Using the Calculator–Breakfast Time Learning: I remember being surprised when I learned earlier this year that a number of Maddy’s classmates weren’t sure how to use the calculator.

I totally understand that they need to learn how to do basic math computations before they use a calculator with any regularity, but I guess I just assumed that they started earlier than grade two to start calculator instruction.


using the calculator: breakfast time learning

It’s our trusty weather section. . .

using the calculator: breakfast time learning

. . . and Owen calculating the ‘winning’ day.


In any case, ever since that day, I pulled our old, trusty calculators out from the depths of our junk drawers and just. . . set them out. On the table, or on the snackbar, or on the craft table. I think there were three, and they’ve just been. . . out and about.

So when Owen picked one up and started typing in numbers, I asked, What are you calculating on the calculator, Owen? Figuring out things?

He said, I don’t know. I’m just putting numbers in.using the calculator: breakfast time learning

Do you know how to use it?  I asked.  Have you really added numbers on the calculator before?

I think so. I just press a number and then the plus sign and then another number and the answer pops up.

Yep. You got it.

But today I’m figuring out which day wins, he went on. I’m going to tell you which day is the biggest.

Oooohhh. Smart–cool idea, I said.  He was looking at the weather highs and lows for the week.  Can you first make a smart guess–or estimate–by looking at the numbers and figure out which you think might win–or be the highest?

He looked closer at the numbers and guessed.  Then I asked Maddy and Cora to do the same.

Everyone made an educated guess–or estimated–which day would have the highest total by looking at the day’s high and low.

Then Owen started adding.

I talked him through the first few days by saying, Okay, let’s add 67 degrees + 48 degrees.  Type in 67.  Now the plus sign.  Now 48.  And then press the equal sign.  Super! What number do you get? What does 67 added to 48 equal?

He would tell me, and I’d write down the number for him.  I was his ‘note-taker’.  Which was fine by me.

And I recorded his answers and we determined which person was correct–it was Owen and Maddy–two winners! Cora and I were close, but we were off by a bit.


using the calculator: breakfast time learning

Owen ranks our days–1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on.

And then we talked about which day ended up in first, second, third, fourth, and fifth place–great math terms to just ‘sneak in’ when we can, right? 

(Want a copy of pre-K and Kindergarten Math Terms? Download pre-K and Kindergarten Math Vocabulary Sheet here; I’ll have to update it for first, second, and third grade math vocabulary this summer!)

That’s really it–we gave a big ole clap for Monday, which was going to be the ‘winning’ day, coming in first place, and then we looked at the clock, realized that we were cutting it close, threw the bowls in the sink, shoes on feet, and skedaddled out the door.

Thankfully, not a lot of stress–just a lot of numbers, a lot of math vocabulary, and a few happy kids.

And one super-happy mama.  I love, love, love how this tiny ten minutes or so included using the newspaper, incorporating math vocabulary in casual conversation, some fine motor work (for Owen, our calculator man), and garnered interest from three kids–because we made ‘finding the winning day’ a sort of game.  Woot.

Happy calculator learning–and let’s hear it for just happening to ‘leave’ a few calculators lying around . . .




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