A Math Lesson at The Mall: A New Kind of Mother Daughter Trip

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“We have $100 to spend,” I told my daughter as we walked around Sears.

“ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS?” She nearly shouted. Her eyes widened and she rubbed her hands together behind a big grin. “That’s A LOT of money, isn’t it?”

Well, let’s see. I told her. I pointed to the dress she was holding and asked her to read me the price tag.

“Twenty dollars,” she read.

Ok, so that means we have 80 more to spend.


We came in with a gift card to pick up some clothes for the new school year but I didn’t realize we’d also be leaving with another math lesson under our belt.

We browsed together and she picked a few more items off the rack for herself while I shopped for her brother. After a little while we set all our items down and I opened my calculator app and had her help me add them up.


First she read me the prices of her items then she added the price of her brother’s items.

“Ninety dollars!” She showed me the total. “So we have one dollar left!”

Technically with tax she’s exactly right but I reminded her about place value and asked her to think about how many dollars we’d have left.


“Ten more!” She said after using my hands as a tool.

I pointed to a hat that she had grabbed for her little brother.

“That’s about ten dollars,” I said.

“Then we’ll be at one hundred!”

She typed the last 10 into the calculator and saw it reach the number we’d been aiming for. Not more, not less.

She beamed as we gathered our things and marched to the register.

“We wasted all of our money!” She told the cashier as she rang up our items.

The cashier laughed and I saw this as an opportunity for a quick vocabulary lesson.

“I think you mean spent,” I suggested. “Wasted is when you throw away something for a bad reason. Spending money is when you are using it to buy something. We are spending the money on school clothes you will use for this whole year, so that’s not wasting.”

“Ahh, ok, spending all our money!” She amended.


The total rang up to $108 thanks to tax. I decided not to go into that lesson today. That’s what we get for missing tax-free weekend.

Luckily we had just won a slew of shop your way points by playing a Secret Life of Pets game in the store, so we redeemed those for cash and it covered the tax over our gift card money.


We walked out of the store, well, Lil’ J was skipping and heading straight for the food court. We finished our little mommy/daughter date with a Chick-fil-a lunch and a Bluebell ice cream dessert. I sat across from her and admired her little spirit. So joyful, so full of life and willing to learn. I love her.

I didn’t know going into that mall that we’d be turning the trip into a math lesson. I’m not even sure if a year ago I would have seen it as an opportunity to do so. I probably would have just rushed through the trip and not thought to stop and explain. Knowing we are on our own now, no other teachers this school year, just us with our many books and life experiences to lead the way. It’s a little scary, but mostly exhilarating, and I can already see it bringing us closer together.

Want $100 to spend with your kiddos at Sears? You don’t have to turn it into a math lesson but I promise you it can be fun! Just leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win a Sears gift card. Also while you’re there check out the new kids jeans and back-to-school gear or look online at Sears.com/backtoschool.

My daughter basically refuses to wear anything but dresses but Sears has expanded their popular Roebuck &; Co. denim line from just mens to boys and girls as well. The boys line has a classic collegiate feel, with tints of color and dry processing to give it a vintage look. Sizes are 7-16 for girls and 8-12 for boys and between $24-36 a pair. Next year she’ll be a little bigger and I’m guessing ready to expand on her choices.

Giveaway ends August 24th at 11:59pm. Good luck!

Update: Winner alert- Commenter #59 Tara Schreeve

*I’m passionate about spending quality time with my family and I love it when stores make that easier for me by making shopping easier and more affordable. That’s why I’ve partnered with Sears for this post.

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  1. This was really cool! I love these day to day events that we don’t realize can be turned into a learning experience! I’m sure she loved it!!

  2. thanks for sharing creative ways to teach in normal settings. this was a great idea and cant wait to do this with my daughter. thanks

  3. This was great! Our little guy is so much more aware of numbers – not the math of it, per se – and learning about the different denominations of currency. During potty training, we got him a clear piggy bank and rewarded him with quarters for going. Taking him shopping and using his funds will be great ways to extend the learning.

  4. I always wish I could slow down and make things more of a learning experience, but of course I have two boys so most of my energy is spent keeping them from getting lost, pulling things off racks, or driving each other nuts! Definitely need to work on the value of a dollar with my older son, though!

  5. So fun! I just explained interest to my 9 year old the other day and it blew her mind lol. So now, when we go to the store, she asks me about taxes and whether or not there is interest. She hasn’t quite figured out the difference, but we are getting there! Cute clothing picks too!

  6. Yeah!! Love this! This past Monday when we went to H-E-B, my daughter Alison brought her purse and money with her because she wanted to buy a coloring book all by herself, with her money, so we looked over different ones, talking about how much this or that one cost, and she paid for it with her own cash and got her very first receipt. She was so proud! I would love to do some more hands-on math lessons with them. 🙂

  7. Kids are such great sponges. If we as parents will slow down a little I think there are many opportunities where we can use the situation to teach a principle or skill. Good job momma! You are gonna nail this homeschooling thing!

  8. We had the same kind of math lesson while shopping for our school supplies this year. I love the opportunity the world gives us for teaching and learning.

  9. My daughter absolutely HATES, no LOATHES, shopping – of any kind ( even if its for toys). We’re planning on school shopping this week, so maybe this little math tutorial can keep her focused on something else.Thanks for the idea!

  10. I think this would be great fun. I love learning and fun together I think the kids remember it more that way!

  11. Fantastic experience. The extra time for the shopping trip is way better than trying to teach the same concept from a book. Yea for both of you!

  12. My son has to do all the back to school shopping this week for my grandsons. I’m sure Sears will be one of the stops.

  13. Great learning opportunity! Isn’t it wonderful how naturally willing little ones are to learn when we create open spaces and time for them to be on kid time? 🙂

  14. I like to shop for my kids at Sears. My son gets the cargo pants he likes there and my daughter finds pretty tops.

  15. My kids would love to have an activity like this at Sears. They already do some of it with buying other things, but I’m sure they’d have fun.

  16. I’ve loved the idea of homeschooling for a few years now. But I also love my full time job and just can’t do everything I want to do all at once. Agghhh! I need a couple of clones!! But I try to carve out a small block of time when I get home to do some of the fun homeschooling things I find online. And your ideas are great! Just implementing learning into everyday situations instead of just trying to get things done. I can totally do that! It just takes patience and looking out for opprtunities. You’re motivating me, so keep it up! 🙂

  17. More and more Peyton is beginning to really understand money and its value when going to the store. She had a great birthday filled with lots of cash and gift cards. Most went into the bank but she dos get to spend some on some clothes.

  18. Just wait tell your little guy is the same age he will learn everything he needs from his big sister. My kindergartner knows123 and 9 timetables all from his older siblings because they play math in there spare time LOL.

  19. Some of the best educational experiences happen outside of the classroom. I’d love to do this with my daughter.

  20. I do the same thing with my three kids. Life has so many built in math, spelling, science, etc., lessons! It’s so fun to discover them with your kids as you go! 🙂

  21. She is so cute! Sears had amazing value for back to school. I feel like their soft lines department is way under-appreciated!

  22. I love this! I think kids learn best with real life lessons and examples. I try to use everyday life as teachable moments for my 2 toddlers as well. We have a book called “Eating the Alphabet” and I have them take it to the grocery store. While we shop, we find examples of the fruits and vegetables in that book and work on our alphabet.

  23. I love Sears, especially since there you’ve at least got some addition to get up to $100 instead of “annnnd here’s two $50 pairs of pants” at other stores. lol.

  24. It’s awesome that you were able to turn a shopping trip into a math lesson. I can’t wait to be able to do that with my children!

  25. I am a biracial baby as well, and I loved straddling both sides of the racial fence. I loved reading your article. It reminded me that I need to plan a date night with all three of my children. It makes them feel so special and cherished. When they are all together, WWIII breaks out in an effort to have my undivided attention. You have a beautiful family. I will keep following them. Please check out my website when you get a chance. I am a new blogger and have so much to learn. I would love to pick your brain!

  26. I use shopping to teach the girls not only math but decision making. When they pick out what they want, I make sure they understand the value of their money, ensuring that they are buying things that will be worn and used and not just spending their money on everything they see. My oldest had a hard time handing over her dollars at the register!

  27. Great Lesson, Im currently working on allowance with my 7 y.o and learning to spend her own money for what she wants. Deciding if she does or doesn’t have enough and if if means that much to you to wait and save up for it or spend the money on something else. I loved this article. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Sears has my teen’s favorite cargo pants (sturdy material, loose enough on the thighs, and has deep pockets). He’s so picky, that I’m thankful I found an affordable go-to solution. Of course, free with a gift card would be even better 😉

  29. I love this idea! I’ll have to take my kiddo to Sears soon! She’ll love the Secret Life of Pets game too!!

  30. LOL two things “she rubbed her hands together” & “we wasted our money” Your daughter is to funny!! I can’t!!! This trip to the mall sound like fun. I’m happy she was able to get a math lesson and buy some pretty dresses. I’m not rushing M&M but patiently waiting to do things like this with them.

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