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Creative Ways to Teach Math, Reading, and More Using an Old Phone Book

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By Alexandra Martinez


A few weeks ago I was unpleasantly greeted by the sight of a thick yellow phone book on my front steps. I sighed in disgust, thinking of all that wasted paper and resources. Has anyone even opened a phone book since the invention of the internet and smart phones? I threw it on the table with the intention of placing it in the recycling bin later, but it hasn't gotten there yet -- and now I don't think it ever will.

Later that same day I found my daughter sitting in the corner flipping through the pages of that giant relic. "Mom, did you know we have seven pizza places in our town?" The truth is I didn't, or I guess I just never bothered to stop and count. Instead of brushing off her question, which I might have done before I became a homeschooler who sees the educational opportunity in almost everything, I sat down beside her and started to take a closer look. We took notes on local restaurants we wanted to visit, discussing the appeal of their advertisement; discovered that her uncle's photography business wasn't listed; and kept a detailed list, in alphabetical order, of possible locations for her next birthday party. Our time spent flipping through the phone book was not only fun, it was educational. It was also only the beginning.

Inspired by our time together, I hopped on the internet to see if I could find a few more lesson ideas. I was blown away by the number of handouts, games, and tasks available surrounding this topic. One of my favorites was a scavenger hunt game which asks questions like: "Your home has an ant problem. What is the page number of a place than can help?" or "What would you look up if you want to send flowers to your mom for her birthday? Name the business that you found." The idea of using a child's knowledge of the alphabet to challenge them to think critically, yet practically, is ingenious. (Bonus: Now your kids will be full of useful information, like who your husband should call when he wants to send you flowers.)

My daughter was partial to the map game. In this game, we had to locate a specific local business on our map (included in the back of the phone book) and then using a ruler and the “miles per inch scale", determine how many miles each business was from our home. Since we don't live too far from town, we are planning to walk to a few of the locations. The bonus here is that children can gain a better understanding of distance and travel time. 

So a phone book can be used to build problem solving skills, answer math questions, practice social studies map skills, and build language? Wow -- and you thought its only use was as a spare booster seat at the dinner table. The next time that yellow book turns up on your step, don't throw it in the trash. It's got so much more to offer -- just proving once again that you can't judge a book by its cover. 

Image: bondidwhat/Creative Commons

by on Jun. 23, 2013 at 3:20 PM
Replies (11-14):
by Gold Member on Jun. 24, 2013 at 5:22 PM
1 mom liked this

Your welcome! I found it and thought wow why did I never think of that lol. I hope you guys enjoy! 

Quoting arwalters:

Awesome! I have one right here and will add to our lesson plan this week. Thanks so much! I'm always looking for creative ways to make hs fun

by Gold Member on Jun. 24, 2013 at 5:28 PM

Thanks for sharing.

by Bronze Member on Jun. 24, 2013 at 7:04 PM

 good idea!

by Bronze Member on Jun. 25, 2013 at 12:37 AM

Nice! Tfs :)

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