Elementary Math Using the Calendar
A calendar is a great tool for teaching basic skills to elementary age children. Walk in any elementary classroom and you will likely see a colorful, seasonal calendar attached to a bulletin board and surrounded by a variety of teaching aids. A table may be added to the area to hold manipulatives, games and task cards, making it double as a math learning station.
You don’t have to have a classroom to use a calendar for teaching math. Parents, homeschoolers, and tutors can use any calendar as long as it is a monthly one and not a daily display calendar. Activities vary from grade level to grade level. The following teaching suggestions are divided into primary (PreK-2 grade) and elementary ( 3rd-5th grade). They will help meet the math teaching standards in all states.
Primary Grade Calendar Math
For really young students, like pre-k through grade one, or older, disabled students, the teacher will want to build the calendar together with the class.
On the first day of the month, review the names of all 12 months and introduce the new month. Pass out number cards (1-30, 31 or 28) and have students bring the correct one to pin on the calendar.
Calendar time is the perfect opportunity to introduce students to ordinal numbers and their endings. Each day, demonstrate how to write the date as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on.
Use the calendar to practice skip counting by 2s and also to talk about numbers that come before and after. If today is the 22nd of the month, ask what yesterday’s date was. What will be tomorrow’s date?
Increase children’s number sense with number riddles each day. Vary in difficulty as time goes by. Examples:
- I come after the number 3. What number am I?
- I am the sum of this Tuesday and next Wednesday.What number am I?
- I am the number of the 2nd Tuesday this month. What number am I?
- What is the date one week from today?
- What month will it be two months after Christmas?
- What was the date two weeks ago from yesterday?
- You have a dental appointment 2 weeks from next Tuesday. What is the date of your dental appointment?
- We started our Social Studies unit five weeks ago from yesterday. What date did we begin the unit?
- What will be the date nine months after Christmas day? What month is five months before December?
It is important for children to develop a sense of time. Use calendar math time to learn the order of the months and the days of the week. Look for songs and rhymes to use for teaching the order of the days and months.
Question students about what month comes before and after the current month. This is a good time to talk about seasons also.
Vary the difficulty of questions as time goes by, challenging students to think.
Beside the calendar, place a ones, tens hundreds pockets chart. You can even use three plastic cups stapled on the bulletin board. Be sure to use the labels ones, tens and hundreds. Beginning on the first day of school, the teacher shows the calendar math helper how to place a straw or Popsicle stick in the ones pocket.
One the 10th day of school, it is time to “bundle” the straws or sticks with a rubber band. Every 10 days from here on, you will bundle and add to the tens pockets. The kids will be thrilled when there or 10 bundles of 10s on the hundredth day of school.
A calendar makes the perfect number line for simple addition and subtraction. Show students how to add problems like 6+ 9 by starting on day six and jumping forward nine days.
Likewise, subtract by jumping backward in time. What was today’s date six days ago? what number sentence shows that operation?
Counting money is a lot of fun using calendar math. Each day is a penny, five days a nickel . Trade two nickles for a dime on the tenth day.
The 25th day of school is a quarter. Trade two quarters for a half-dollar on the 50th day of school. Use large paper coins to display the money in a piggy bank pinned to the calendar math bulletin board. So if it is the 62nd day in school, for example, you will have a half-dollar, a dime,and two pennies.
After 99 cents, kids will be thrilled to add a paper dollar for the 100th day of school.
Students can help the teacher create a pictograph or bar graph depicting the number of rainy days, sunny days, etc.
Elementary Grade Calendar Math
For older students, days can be added one at a time at the calendar circle times. Although some of the objectives are the same, skills become more advanced with each grade level. They still love counting the days of school and modeling the ones, tens, and hundreds, but now, they will use the day to write decimals and percentages.
Patterning is an important skill that will help students later on with algebraic concepts. Some teachers like to use seasonal symbols like pumpkin, ghost bat. Others just use colors. You can use geometric shapes and help students identify them, covering an important geometry standard.
Use the calendar time to learn about odd and even numbers and prime and composite numbers. Tell whether each day is odd or even. Let the calendar math helper write these in the correct place.
Have students tell whether each day is a prime or composite number. The 13th of the month is prime because its only factors are one and 13. Is October 25th a prime or composite day? Composite, because it has 5, 1 and 25 as factors. On “composite days”, have students create factoring trees as part of their morning work.
Students can use the calendar for harder skip counting like 3s, 4s, and 6s.
Show students how to write “big numbers” by turning the month into a number. For example May 25th, 2014 would be written as 5,252,014. Whatever the date is, start on the right and place commas after each set of 3 numbers. December 22, 2016, would, therefore be 12, 222,013.
Have a place value pocket chart from ones to ten millions pinned to the calendar math bulletin board. The calendar math helper can place number cards in the pouches to show the date.
Use ones, tens and hundreds for counting the days in school. Students can write these as decimals and percentages. For example, the 82nd day of school would be written as .82 and 82%. The 102nd day? 1.02 which is one whole and 2 tenths., or one whole and 2 percent.
Students in later grades are expected to be able to perform column addition and regroup. Pick three or four days and have students add them together. For example, say, add last Wednesday’s date, today’s date and next Thursday’s and Friday’s date together.
Use the calendar for teaching fractions. For example, the 6th of December would be written as 6/12ths. After introducing simplifying fractions, a student could show how to reduce this to 1/2. Some days will be improper fractions. For example,February 7th would be 7/2. Students can divide to get the mixed number 3 and 1/2. December 12th will be 12/12 and makes the whole number, one.
Counting money is pretty much the same for all grade levels. This skill can be parallel to place value and decimals. One way to make counting money more complex it to add days together. For example, what is the total of the 160th day and the 161st day. Students would add $1.60 and $1.61.
Some teachers of older students use thousands and add them to a depositor each day. For example, the 1st is $100 dollars, and the 10th is $10,000 dollars. Likewise, the 20th is $20,000. Add another thousand to the depositor on the next day, the 21st.
Again, time sequence and awareness of time is important for elementary students as well. Make it more difficult with more complex tasks.