Making Math Fun Through Cooking
Plus recipes for Berry Smoothie, 1-2-3-4 Pound Cake and Saturday Morning Pancakes
Making math fun may seem like a feat.
For parents who struggled with math while in school, the idea of making math easier, accessible or practical may sound both enticing and impossible. One of the best ways to make it happen isn’t through worksheets. It’s through cooking!
That goes for everyone from preschoolers to teens. Kids won’t even know they’re learning when you’re adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing ingredients. Fractions are another concept that easily come to life while cooking.
For the smallest children, you may already be talking, reading and singing to them throughout the day. Continue doing so in the kitchen. No, they won’t understand when you say you’re putting one-half cup milk into the oatmeal. But narrating while you measure will familiarize kids with the concept.
Dinosaur pizza party:
How would you divide a pizza for two hungry dinosaurs so they each get a fair share? How about four hungry dinosaurs? Eight? Start by drawing a round pizza on a piece of paper and see. Then make a pizza or order a pizza and cut it up for the hungry dinosaurs.
Ask the kids to line a muffin pan with muffin liners. Let them count each one aloud as they put them in. Fill six muffin cups. How many muffin cups do we still need to fill? How many does that make? Explain that six out of 12 is half.
Place 10 grapes in a bowl. If I eat one, how many are left? What if I eat two? This is a great – and yummy – way to explain the basics of subtraction.
Fruit kabob patterns:
Thread fruit on a kabob to make a pattern. Two strawberries and one kiwi. One banana and three blueberries. See if the kids can identify the pattern, and them let them make their own.
Watch the clock:
When baking or cooking, use your kids as your timer. Put the lasagna in the oven and tell them once it’s cooked for 30 minutes, you’ll need to start making the salad. What time will that be?
Give your child a favorite recipe from a cookbook. Ask them to double it. Let them first do it on paper, and then double it while cooking. Kids will enjoy this if it’s something they love to eat, like cookies, Rice Krispies treats or brownies.
Cut it in half:
Find a recipe with lots of fractions and ask your child to half the recipe. If your kiddo is struggling with fractions, this can be a practical way to see fractions in action. Converting and reducing fractions is typically trickier than doubling them.
When your kids begin studying volume measurements, the best way to make them come to life is by heading to the kitchen. Let them tell you how many pints are in a quart and quarts in a gallon by filling them with water to see for themselves.
Let’s make a budget:
Give your middle schoolers a weekly budget, then let them choose groceries from a grocery store app to see if they can buy food for the family without breaking the bank. They will have to consider sales tax – a great way to include multiplying decimals.
Recipes to Try
Here are some recipes to try when making math fun in the kitchen.
Let little children count each berry as they place them in the measuring cup. Older children can practice doubling or halving the recipe.
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Mix all ingredients in blender on high speed until smooth and frothy. Add more juice for a thinner consistency, if preferred.
This old-fashioned recipe gets its name from the main ingredients – 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour and 4 eggs. Ask your kids where they think the recipe name comes from.
1-2-3-4 Pound Cake
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
- In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed just until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Gradually add the flour and baking powder to the butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour, beating just until combined after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Pour batter into pan and bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. Let cool in pans for 15 minutes. Remove from pan. Let cool, then frost or sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Here’s another good recipe for practicing measuring, doubling and halving. It’s easy enough for little kids to help with or for big kids to make themselves.
Saturday Morning Pancakes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Mix-ins: mini chocolate chips, blueberries, sliced bananas, dried cranberries (no more than 1 cup total)
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour in the milk, egg and oil. Mix until smooth. Add mix-ins, if using, and stir gently.
- Lightly oil griddle or sauté pan, heating over medium heat. Pour ¼ cup batter to form each pancake. Allow pancakes to cook on one side until air bubbles start to form around the edges. Flip, using a spatula, cooking until second side is golden brown.
Natalie Mikles is a mom of three – 12-year-old twin girls and an 11-year-old boy. She writes about food, sharing recipes for busy families and picky eaters. She has been recognized for her food columns as well as features on families and issues affecting local children. She loves pizza and movie nights with her family.