Adults often do many things for children that they can do for themselves, especially when preparing for a project. We all know how important it is to be prepared for a lesson with students. But being prepared, and adults doing work that students can learn from, are two very different things. Planning and gathering materials for a project are important activities that students can and should be involved with. When plans miraculously happen, and materials just appear, many learning opportunities are lost.
When we presented the State Fair to other groups of students, many math opportunities occurred. There was measurement to plan how to set up the fair in the space we had available. There was discourse and compromise among students to agree on how to place each state in the fair – Alaska wanted to display the states alphabetically, Texas by size, California by population… A schedule was developed – after the students figured out how much time each group would need at the fair based on number of displays to visit and how much average time would be spent at each display. Groups were invited based on this schedule. Then the schedule was adjusted for groups that had a conflict with the available times. Then the schedule was re-adjusted after the first day when the students realized larger groups and older students needed more time at the fair than smaller and younger groups, etc.
There are many math opportunities for parents working with children at home as well. When inviting other children over make sure your child is involved in this discourse. You would be surprised how much math you use every day without even realizing it. (Except of course when I balance my checkbook. Then I totally realize how much math is involved as I try to make sense of the usual mess I have made!)