The kitchen in another great place to encourage learning without my children even realizing it. So much of cooking has to do with math, but I wanted to share some of what we do in case you need more ideas. My children really can cook, and they get so much great math practice at the same time. Last week, I shared fun ways to practice math while shopping, and will be sharing other ways we practice math in the near future as well.
Where is math in the kitchen? Everywhere.
Fractions can be naturally taught in recipes. Having a child cook with you means that you can a chance to talk about fractions. If you need 3/4 of a cup of sugar and only have a 1/4 cup measuring cup, then you’ll need 3 of them. Introducing fractions in non-threatening ways seems to help their understanding.
Multiple batches of a recipe leads to unit conversions, multiplying fractions, and even some larger multiplication problems. My favorite activity for my bigger children is to have them make pancakes. Who can make a single batch? I have had them make a triple, quadruple, and even 6 times the recipe. With that recipe, they even have to pull out a whiteboard to multiply the weight of the gluten-free flour mix (a single batch uses 125 grams). They also practice converting from teaspoons to tablespoons since the original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of baking powder. The 1/4 teaspoon of salt is the trickiest for them since they haven’t been taught to multiply fractions yet, but they are even getting the hang of that.
Division can easily be explained (or even figured out) when you give your children a snack. For instance, if there are 25 apple slices and 4 children, how many can each child have? How many are left over? It is fun to see the different ways my kids attack problems like this. With Jelly Belly jelly beans at Easter, one child solved the division problem by counting the total and then skip-counting 4’s to see how many different sets of 4’s were smaller than the total. Another thought to physically put the Jelly Bellies into piles of 4. I know when I actually go to teach them division, they already have a concept of it. As an added challenge, I sometimes ask questions like, “What if only 3 of you want some?” or “If two friends joined us, how would we divide it up?”. Sometimes the remainders even lead my children to more fraction work. Sausage links are 10 in a pack, and with 4 children, they figured out they could each have 2 1/2.
Food can always lead to simple addition or subtraction questions. If I am making scrambled eggs, I can say, “I only have 1 egg in this container and want 8, how many more do I need?” Or “The oat container only have 2 cups in it, and then I added 4 more cups from the new bag. How many do I have now?” Or “You had 8 baby carrots and already ate 3, how many are left?”
Using muffin tins for lunch always leads to math. Seth shared about this a while ago, but I thought I’d add that just skip counting with muffin tins, trays of cookies or biscuits really helps with our multiplication understanding as well.
The kitchen is full of learning opportunities. How do you teach math in the kitchen?