Kids’ Gardens: Growing Lessons In Math
To learn more about math today, kids don’t have to board a bus to school or look at a chalkboard filled with numbers. Instead, they can venture outside to start a garden.
Gardens are a great way for parents to enhance their children’s math skills. Growing plants can serve as a foundation for many areas in math, such as measuring, graphing and counting as well as understanding fractions and percentages. Begin by following a few simple rules when working with children.
- Keep it fun and simple
- Select appropriate plants
- Encourage exploration
- Be patient
- Plan activities with both immediate and delayed gratification.
Plot A Garden
No matter what the weather is like where you live, you can begin by having your child plot the garden. You only need a tape measure, ruler and paper. Begin by helping your child measure the garden area. This will help develop skills in understanding and using measurement devices.
Next, help your child make a scaled drawing of the area on a piece of paper. For example, a one-inch square on the paper can stand for one square foot in the garden. This exercise is a great way to illustrate ratios. Let’s say your garden is 10 feet by 10 feet. Your child draws 10 rows of 10 one-inch boxes. Use math to figure out the area of the garden by multiplying the length by the width. In this case, you’ll have 100 square feet to plant.
Ask your child how many plants the garden will support if each takes up one square. (A good rule of thumb is one plant for every square foot.) The right answer, of course, is 100. If you choose big plants, such as corn, plant fewer stalks. If you have small plants, such as turnips, then you’ll be able to plant a few more.
On the graph, have your child draw pictures of what they’d like to plant and the location. Now figure out together what percentage each type of plant takes up. Perhaps you have 18 squares taken up with tomatoes–that’s 18 percent of your garden.
When you apply mathematical skills to a fun activity like gardening, your child’s mind is sure to flourish.