Creative Math Activities for the Road
Are you planning a family road trip but worried about how to keep your kids engaged and learning along the way? Math activities on the road could be the perfect solution! Not only is math an essential skill for daily life, but it can also be a fun way to pass the time and keep your kids’ minds active during a long car ride.
For a homeschooling family, traveling is an important activity, especially when you plan ahead to make the most of learning every mile of the way. It’s more fun for kids to learn while building new memories and visiting new places, and you can bond as a family while continuing your kids’ education.
In this blog post, we’ll share some creative and entertaining math activities you can do with your kids while on the road. From planning the trip and calculating costs ahead of time to budgeting your stays and playing math games on long drives, these activities are sure to make your road trip more enjoyable and educational for the whole family.
So, buckle up and let’s hit the road!
Before steering toward a bunch of math activities your family can do on the road, I want to mention a terrific math curriculum, CTCMath. This curriculum worked wonders for our homeschooling family, and helped us approach the subject of math in a new and more attainable way. They have a free trial and a 365-day money-back guarantee. Seriously, there’s every reason to try it out.
Is math the most dreaded subject in your household? Do you children feel overwhelmed learning new math concepts? If so, please check out this math curriculum. Math can be a challenge for you as the teacher as well as for your kids, but you can build their confidence and help them excel in math. If your students are struggling to believe that they can do it, check out CTCMath today!
Creative Math Activities on the Road with Your Kids
There are many ways to incorporate math learning into a family road trip! Some of these ideas begin before the trip. In other words, rather than you having to do all the work of planning and budgeting, rope your kids in on these activities. It will help them feel more a part of things, and they’ll be learning important skills at the same time.
Here are some math activities you can incorporate before hitting the road:
Math Activities While Planning Your Trip
So, as a family you’ve decided you want to go somewhere on an educational road trip, but you don’t yet know where. Begin by calculating the costs of the trip and deciding your travel budget.
Calculating Your Trip Costs
Have a family meeting ahead of time in which you discuss and decide on specific details about your trip. This provides a terrific way to bring math into the “real world” while discussing travel plans. When you and your kids calculate the cost differences of these various options, you don’t have to pick the least expensive, but you do need to stick to your predetermined budget.
And that’s usually the best place to begin …
- Start with a budget. Ask and decide on questions such as: How much can we spend? Do we have a total trip budget? How about a daily budget?
- Discuss where you are going: Are we going to a single destination? If not, how far away is each place we are considering?
- Determine how far you want to travel: Is it an international trip? If so, you can teach your kids about conversion rates and money in different countries.
- Decide on the time frame of your trip: Answer questions such as: Do we have a specific journey time limit? How many days will we be traveling? How long does it take to get to our destination? How much time does each activity take? (Note that time is hard to add and calculate, so this is a good math activity but will also require some flexibility!)
- Research hotels versus other places to stay: Look at the costs of a hotel per night as opposed to an Airbnb or VRBO. Have you looked into campgrounds available where you’ll be staying? Have your kids calculate the cost difference between hotels, Airbnbs, and camping.
- Discuss hidden expenses: For example, if you opt for camping, do you already own a tent or will you need to add that to your costs? Do you have an RV or can you borrow or rent one for the trip?
- What is the cheapest way to get there? Compare gas costs for driving versus airline ticket versus going by train:
- If driving: How much gas would we use to get there? Do we have to prepare the car before going? What needs to be done and how much does each thing cost? Do we need to change the oil, get new tires, new windshield wipers, etc. before the trip?
- If flying: Compare prices of different airlines; what is the best deal for the dates you are traveling? Check out the price graph on Google; does changing the flight dates slightly make a difference in flight costs? What other fees are involved with the flights, such as surcharges for specific seats, baggage charges, etc.?
- If taking a bus or train: compare prices of train versus bus. Also, consider the need to use transportation once arriving at your destination(s). Will you rent a vehicle or take other forms of transportation such as Uber or Lyft? Do a cost analysis of these options.
Spending & Budgeting Math Activities
Okay, once you’ve figured out all these things, and made a plan for your trip, it’s time for the next stage: packing! While packing doesn’t necessarily fall in the category of math activities, it’s definitely educational and helps your kids build real-world experience!
Have your kids create a packing list taking into consideration the location(s) you’ll be traveling, the weather, the length of the trip, whether you’ll be doing formal activities, etc. (As the parent, you should have an overall packing checklist you are working from to double check your kids haven’t forgotten anything.)
Are you traveling with toddlers? If so, you’ll want to check out this Road Trip Survival Kit for heading out on the road with young ones.
Here are a few more activities and games to keep your kids occupied while on the road.
Fun Travel Activities and Games
Next, involve your children in the trip budget and have them help keep track of expenses. Budgeting in itself offers a range of math activities. You can give them a certain amount of money for snacks or meals, souvenirs, or other treats, and have them practice making decisions about how to spend it.
Budget your food expenses
- How much will the food cost if eating out every day? Is it possible to prepare some snacks or meals ahead of time to save money?
- If you’re staying at an Airbnb versus a hotel, you can cook some meals in the home and save on restaurant costs (but you’ll need to go grocery shopping). If you plan on cooking some of your meals while on the road, here are a couple of quick and easy dinners: Ham and Cheese Sliders. Chicken Alfredo.
- Provide your kids with a budget for one of the meals every day (i.e., lunch or dinner), and determine how the family can eat on that amount.
Budget your road trip activities
- Where are some of the specific places they want to visit?
- Have your students research admission fees for museums, exhibits, national parks, etc.
- What about the cost to do outdoor activities (i.e., rent boats or bikes)?
Budget for souvenirs
- Give each child a souvenir budget (or help them save for the trip in advance). As your family is enjoying their vacation, the kids are going to want to purchase fun things to remember the trip.
- They’ll need to be able to calculate tax and whether they have enough to cover the cost. Teach them to calculate the tax on a calculator app or in their head.
Map Reading and Navigation on the Road
If your family is driving, mapping and navigation are some great math activities. Mapping activities not only help children develop spatial reasoning, but they can be fun during road trips exploring new places. Children can create maps of their adventures and use math to navigate their surroundings.
For older children, their mapping activities can incorporate geometry, using angles, shapes, and coordinates to create their maps. They can also use math to analyze data on maps, such as calculating the distance between two points or determining the area of a region.
- Have your child create a map of the route you are traveling, using math concepts such as distance, direction, scale, and symbol to represent the area.
- Give your children a map of the area you’re traveling through and have them help navigate the route. They can practice using a map key, measuring distances, and estimating travel time.
- Teach them how to use mapping apps such as Waze or Google Maps. Some kids will be very engaged by these apps, seeing the road ahead, watching for notices of accidents, and learning more about direction and scale.
- Use a real, physical map and map out the journey, including stops or destinations along the way. Teach them to use the mileage scale on the map and a ruler to calculate the mileage.
- Older kids can do more advanced mapping: have them find out the GPS coordinates of the places you’ll be visiting. Or map out the latitude and longitude of each!
Other Fun Math Activities on the Road
Combine Time and Distance
- Have your children estimate how long it will take to get to the next rest stop or destination.
- You can also have them calculate the distance between two points using a map or GPS.
- Use an app or device to track steps walked while on a hike or the distance covered while on a bike ride.
Geometry and shapes
- Younger children can point out different shapes they see along the way, such as circles (like tires), rectangles (like signs or semi-trucks), or triangles (like mountains).
- Younger and older children can also draw shapes they see on the road or create their own geometric designs.
Math Activities and Games While in the Car (or Train/Bus)
To minimize the all-too-frequent question every child loves to ask while on the road, “Are we there yet?” you can keep your kids busy with fun counting games.
- Have them count and keep track of how many of a certain type of vehicle they see on the road: blue cars, red trucks, or white vans. You can also have them count how many road signs, trees, or buildings they see in a certain time period (such as 30 minutes).
- Play math-themed games like “I Spy” but instead of colors, have your children find shapes or numbers.
- You can also play mental math games like “Add the Digits” as they add up digits from signs or license plates in a specific time period.
- Bring a few fun math games on the road with you.
Incorporating Other Subjects into your Math Activities on the Road
- Family road trips are also a great time to learn about states and capitals. Check out these states and capitals flash cards and worksheets printable.
- Do a fun study of the states you are visiting before you go. What’s their population? How far away are they from where you live? Are they known for growing or manufacturing anything in particular?
- What cities are you visiting in those states? What is the population of those cities? What differences do your kids note between the larger cities and small towns?
- How many different state license plates do you see during your entire trip? (Use a note taking app to record them as they are spotted.)
English and Writing
- Keep a family travel journal: Have each member contribute something. Maybe one of your kids is good at picking up and keeping brochures, receipts, and other small keepsakes. Another of your kids takes photos of everything, while another one likes to actually write down a log of everything you’re doing each day. This way, everyone can participate. You can compile it after the trip, making a keepsake travel journal as a way to reflect on your journey and revisit the fun experiences you had as a family.
- A personal travel journal following a template is also a great idea and gives your child something to work with, including itinerary, checklists, research, and mapping.
If you’re traveling in your car, here are a few road trip essentials to keep your kids belongings in order (and your sanity together):
Some Road Trip Essentials
Overall, incorporating math activities into a family road trip can be fun and engaging for children, while also reinforcing important math skills. With a little creativity, you can turn your road trip into a learning adventure! We hope this article has inspired you with fun ways to incorporate math into your upcoming travel adventures!
Doing math activities on the road can be an exciting, hands-on aspect of teaching math alongside a curriculum like CTCMath. Be sure to use our special HipHomeschoolMom’s link to get an extra 6 months on your year subscription! Also, CTCMath is one price for the entire family. Finally, a math curriculum that’s designed to take the frustration and intimidation out of math (for your child and you).