Monday, January 12, 2015

Math is Everywhere - Toy Cars!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

I'm taking my cue today from posts by my friend Tara at The Elementary Math Maniac. A while back, Tara wrote about using photos to help students recognize math in common objects and places.

Recently I came across this display of toy cars at a flea market and just couldn't resist snapping a pic.


This should be a high interest photo for the kiddos, don't you agree? 

Bearing in mind that when I get stuck on an idea I sometimes have a bit of trouble letting it go, here are some of the math questions that came into my mind for this photo, in approximate order of difficulty.

How many cars are in the display?

How many rows are there? How many columns?

If the owner sells ten cars, how many will be left?

Are there more green cars or blue cars? How many more?

Two kids bought the whole tray of cars and decided to share them. How many cars will each of them get? What if one of their friends comes along and they decide to share with her, too - how many cars will each of them get? Suppose a fourth friend comes along?

All of the cars cost $.10 each, except the red and orange cars, which are $.20 each. I have $2.00 in my pocket. Is that enough to buy all of the cars? If it is, will I get any change? If it isn't, how much more will I need?

What fraction of the cars are green? What fraction of the cars are yellow? What fraction of the cars are either green or yellow?

What fraction of the cars are painted a primary color?

If the owner wants to make $5 by selling all of the cars, how much should he charge for each one?

The green cars are $4.99 each and the gold cars are $3.50 each. All of the rest of the cars are $2.99 each. What percentage of the cars cost less than $3 each?

Although I've strayed beyond where "Primary" Inspiration should probably be venturing, I'm sure you get the idea that a picture like this can be useful for a wide range of mathematical topics at many learning levels!

Working with a photo like this is a great warm-up for a math lesson, partly for the practice in solving the problems but just as importantly for getting the minds of your students thinking about math and how it's used in all of our lives.

I also like the idea of using pictures like these as a partner activity, for generating and writing math questions. Then each day you can put one of the pictures up on your doc camera and talk about the questions with the whole class.

Where can you get pictures for math?  Well, first of all, you're welcome to grab the one above to print and use in your classroom.  Also, you'll find some great ones in magazine ads and illustrations from children's books.  Once you start to do this, you'll find yourself taking pictures everywhere.  Ask Tara ... I've gone a little overboard, sending her photos of everything from gauges on fire trucks to Tastycake displays at the local convenience store!

If you plan to use the toy car picture, please leave a comment to share a math question that you might ask about it.  Thanks!

See more examples of math in action at the monthly "Math is Real Life" linky at Miss Math Dork's blog.
...also sponsored by...

Happy Teaching!


  1. Awesome picture! I think these are all excellent questions. I love showing the same picture to multiple grades and seeing what questions/answers they come up with! You should link this up with the Math is Real Life linky. It is live now and still has just over a day left to link up!

    The Math Maniac

  2. Thanks for reminding me about the linky, Tara! I'd heard about it but forgotten where it was. I linked, and am already thinking about what I might link for next month. :)

  3. Absolutely LOVE this post!!! Thank you so much for linking up with us this month! I do hope you will continue to join us :)

    Jamie aka MissMathDork!

    1. Thanks, Jamie! I love knowing that someone will be using these pics I've been taking. :) Thanks for the opportunity to link! :)


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