Math tends to be a hated subject amongst kids, mainly because they associate it with sitting still and concentrating on worksheets with seemingly endless rows of sums.
In order to break this mentally, it is important to show kids early on that math doesn’t have to be drab and boring and that it actually has some very practical uses that can benefit them in their daily life.
One of the best ways to teach young children some basic math concepts is to have them help you in the kitchen, whether you’re doing simple dinner prep or undertaking a more elaborate project like baking brownies or apple pie.
Cooking requires a wide range of math skills, from counting and adding to fractions and measurements. Taking math concepts that your children are learning in school and practicing those skills while doing something enjoyable, like cooking a meal together, can really make math come alive for your child.
Here are some useful math skills that your child can be taught through cooking:
For younger children who are still learning the very basic math concepts like numbers, the kitchen is an excellent place to start. You can have them count out cups of flour and pour them into the mixing bowl, or ask them to a certain number of shakes from a salt or pepper shaker while counting out loud.
Being able to practice their numbers in an interactive way will prevent them from associating Math with something unpleasant and really helps the lessons to stick.
Matching and sorting
Matching and sorting are activities that very young kids will enjoy, and it helps them to understand that different types of utensils or ingredients each belong in their own group. You can also ask them to sort things according to their shape or size, for example, rounded things like spoons could go in one group, while things with pointy ends like forks could go in another.
Addition and Multiplication
Depending on what age your child is, cooking is a perfect way to practice addition and even multiplication. With younger kids, you could ask them to double a recipe by adding up the different measurements to make twice as much.
For children that are working on their multiplication tables and already have a grasp on how they work, you can ask them to triple a recipe or even make it four times larger.
Have them think about how doubling or tripling a recipe saves them the trouble of having to make two or three separate recipes. This will help them understand the importance of knowing how to add and multiply.
Many math books use pictures of pizza or cake to help kids visualize the concept of fractions, but actually getting kids in the kitchen and having them divide a cake or pizza into a certain number of pieces can really help a complicated subject seem more relatable.
You can also use cup measurements to teach fractions, by asking them to use ½ cups and then slowly upping the difficulty level by introducing them to using 1/3 and 2/3 cups of flour or sugar.
This is something that will take a little more planning beforehand (and afterwards), but teaching graphing through cooking lessons is entirely possible. A few ideas on how to incorporate this subject is to use graphs to keep track of some of your child’s favorite or least favorite recipes.
You could also use a graph to look at which ingredients are used the most or figure out which ingredients are more nutritious. These are just a few ideas, and there are probably many others you can come up with as you go along.
If you don’t have much time to plan Math lessons into your cooking, you may enjoy a recent cook book by teacher and author Ann McCallum. It is full of ideas on how to help your child practice their Math skills in the kitchen. The book, titled “Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds,” includes everything from Math-friendly recipes to parent/teacher guides, and is the perfect tool for teaching your child how math can be applied in their daily life.