I cherish any opportunity to make my daughters smile, laugh, think and, hopefully, slot a pleasant sun soaked remembrance into their long term memory bank. A frequent source of such tiny moments of joy would often come while driving to and from my parents home via the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Anyone who’s ever experienced this particular drive likely knows it as one of the more tedious stretches of road in America, but getting on and off through the toll booths never failed to provide me with chances to make a pair of young girls giddy, albeit only one girl at a time. All I needed to do was make my way over to the numbered toll booth lane that corresponded with their age — hence the only one girl at a time issue — and say, “I went through #4 for you, kiddo!” I’ll admit that these small gestures were probably never the highlight of any of their days, but it was one more little way I could let them know that I was thinking about them.

As they’ve gotten older this has become more difficult, although when there is a turnpike entrance that’s 8 or even 11 lanes wide, my daughters do still get a kick out of me choosing ‘their’ lane. More often nowadays, I find myself rolling slowly though lane 2, 5 or 7, numbers which on the surface have nothing to do with my two kids — but that all changes when I begin to play this slightly goofy mental math game with them!

### What You’ll Need

• a numerical prompt, like a turnpike toll booth lane
• calculator (optional, for double checking your own math prowess!)

### How to Start Playing Family Focused Math on the Go!

If you find yourself heading through a toll booth with your kids in the backseat, that’s perfect, but not at all necessary. Simply get started by using your child’s age. Let’s say your son is 5 years old — that’s a wonderful age. Now, ask him to use a variety of numbers that are relevant in your family (things like: # of pets, # of girls, mom’s age, etc), to develop a simple equation that backs into an answer of 5. Here’s an example of what I would do with my own kids, using the number 5:

My wife’s age (36) + the total number of people in our immediate family (4) divided by the current age of my youngest daughter (8) = 5.

or, let’s say your number is 7 because your daughter is that age or because she happens to wear #7 in T-Ball:

The sum of the ages of my two daughters (11 + 8 = 19) plus the number of cats we have (2) divided by the number of girls in our immediate family (3) = 7.

Family Focused Math on the Go is perfect for passing time in the car but this mental math game can be enjoyed anywhere because it requires only creativity, some basic math skills, and a lot of fun conversation between a parent and a child — and that’s always a brilliant recipe for a great time + learning.

This math game was originally inspired by my own dad’s ability to do (and his enjoyment of doing) math problems in his head. All throughout my childhood, and still occasionally today, he would spit out answers to questions like, “how many days until Christmas?”, that we weren’t yet asking because it would be mid-April. As a visual learner myself, I grew to enjoy doing the same kind of thing with numbers in my head which has helped me in numerous math classes during my school years.

Playing Family Focused Math on the Go may be beneficial for very young learners to begin to understand math concepts in a whole new way by encouraging them to ‘see’ the numbers. In the future, the simple equation of 3+2 will no longer be two cold, impersonal numbers being added together but the number of kids + adults in your family or pets + cars, and so on, and as children begin to learn about multiplication and division, the mental math possibilities become even more exciting!