Numeracy in the Kitchen

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Numeracy in the Kitchen

Please welcome guest blogger Claire Howden. Teacher. Reader. Book Collector. Mathematician.

I have talked to Claire many times about how I don’t want PudStar to be counting on her fingers at 38 like I do, getting sweaty palmed at the thought of times tables like I do, and having a panic when having to supervise Year Six Maths (me?!). Claire loves maths AND reading, and making children ‘mathematicaly literate’ is something she is passionate about. So here she is with her first post on all things maths and reading…and my palms aren’t sweaty at all as I read it. Really they aren’t.

Are you one of those mums who doesn’t want their son or daughter to “be like me” in maths?  You were never any good at it in school and you just know it will be something he/she struggles with the way you did?  Not that it matters because you are happy baking and gardening, doing your crafty things; and you have a really great career as a librarian and you love reading; so something had to give right?

Well, I’m here to tell you that you are wrong!  You do love Maths and in fact, you apply in it some of the most complex and practical ways every time you sit down to make that Halloween outfit or put the final touches on that jelly swimming pool cake! In a series of guest blogs over the coming months, I will happily remind you of all the ways that you, and your child, can interact with numeracy in the activities you love to do together.

In honour of my favourite blogger, this post is all about the joys of mixing baking and Maths.  As no doubt you have often heard, this is just one area of the home that you can readily see Maths applied.  Not only that, but these are the areas that children often struggle with as their numeracy skills develop.  So here are my Top Five ways to incorporate mathematics into your kitchen.

Top Five Ways to Incorporate Numeracy Literacy into the Kitchen:

  1. The most obvious way is in the measuring of the ingredients you will use.  With younger children, talking cups and spoons is a great way to develop an understanding of measuring mass.  It’s really important that children begin to understand what these non-metric measures look like, so encourage them to measure out the two cups of flour for that cake or even the two cups of rice for the rice cooker for dinner.  While you’re at it, help them measure the water that goes into the rice cooker too…liquid and mass measurement in one hit!  Who would have thought it! With older children, ask them to use the kitchen scales to measure the grams or ounces from a recipe.  You could make it even more exciting by asking them to fill a cup and then check to see the actual mass of the ingredient.  Are the cup measures accurate???
  2.  When rolling out cookie dough or pastry, rather than just using your keen, experienced eye to judge how thick it is, get out a ruler and have your helper measure the height.  If it’s not right, keep on rolling!  Make a science experiment out of it (if you have the time) and see what happens to the end product if you make it thicker or thinner.
  3. If working with smaller children, have them count out the number of cupcake wrappers that you’ll need to fill the tins.
  4. Once the cupcakes have cooked and cooled, agree on a number of lollies or silver balls (my favourite) to go on the top of the cake.  The language of “if I have baked 12 cupcakes and we are going to put 4 mini marshmallows on each, how many will we need all together?” has just helped your child develop excellent problem solving strategies.  For younger children you could work it out retrospectively, that is, count them all up at the end.  For older children, ask them to work it out first and then check their answer by actually doing it!
  5. Lastly, when cooking your pizza treat on a Friday night, make it a patterning lesson.  Decide on the delicious additions you will make to the pizza and then have your child place them in a pattern that is fair for all of the eaters.  Starting from the outside and working inwards, you could start with pineapple, pineapple, ham; or for something more adventurous sweet potato, olive, goat’s cheese.  What a treat!

The kitchen is a veritable cooking pot of options for numeracy skill development that is only limited by your imagination.  Cooking temperatures, mixing times, and even ratio for the ideal washing up water, are all tasks that you would do without thinking.  By speaking your thoughts and processes out loud, those automatic actions may just develop a little earlier for your child…and you’ll have an enthusiastic helper at meal times too!

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  1. Karen Freeman on Oct 31, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Bravo Claire! Lovely, simple ways of doing math in the kitchen! I really enjoyed this and look forward to your next appearance on Megan’s blog 🙂

  2. Natalie on Nov 1, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Brilliant! Some clever ideas that are new to me and I will be sure to put them into practice. Like you Megan I still need to count on my fingers. Math was never my strong point and I cannot help Levi anymore with his math homework. He has to wait till Joel gets home. But cooking and measuring I can do!

  3. Jacinta on Nov 1, 2012 at 7:10 am

    I totally can relate to these math fears! As a teacher I often sit down and make sure I can do the problems! Thanks for sharing simple numeracy that can be incorporated into every things which of course is way more fun!

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