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math
chocolate chips
addition and subtraction
multiplication and division
math problem
food coloring
Using Food To Teach Math
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Using Food to Teach Math

I have chosen to homeschool my kids. We have a chosen homeschooling curriculum that we enjoy. Still, we like to take a few steps off the beaten path and use food to teach our children their basic math facts. I have developed some home school lessons. The activities I am about to describe will work for any child learning or reviewing their basic math concepts regardless of where they get their education.

In kindergarten, I usually buy one or more of the following to teach addition and subtraction: Cheerios, M&Ms, chocolate chips, or some other small food that the child I am teaching really enjoys. The food is then used as a hands-on manipulative. For instance, if we were adding 2 + 3, I might get out 2 raisins and 3 chocolate chips. Before the lesson starts, we set a goal for the number of lessons we are going to accomplish that day. When we reach our goal, it is time to eat whatever food we used for the lesson.

My favorite lesson for kindergarten is subtraction. I love to watch their faces when find out that they get to eat after each math problem is solved. An example would be 3 - 2, so they would get to eat three.

Multiplication and division can be done with edible manipulatives, too. Three rows of four M&Ms makes 3 * 4 more interesting than drawing dots. Or, the student could receive 12 Skittles and be instructed to divide them into equal groups. They could come up with 2 groups of 6, 6 groups of 2, 3 groups of 4, 4 groups of 3.

When it is time to learn fractions, it is time to order some pizza. If we are learning about thirds, sixths, or ninths, we start off by cutting in thirds. For sixths, we cut each third in half. For ninths, we cut each slice into thirds again. This method can be done with halves, fourths, etc.

There are also lessons on volume. I have pitchers that measure both quarts and liters. I start off by measuring out one cup of water with a little bit of food coloring or I will use juice since the colored liquid makes it easier to see how much liquid is in the container. This is poured into a two cup measuring cup. Another cup of liquid is added. Then, we add a sticky note to label it "pint."

There are two ways to go about teaching kids about quarts. The first way is to have the kids measure out a pint twice and dump the liquid into the quart sized pitcher. The second way is to have the pint sized container filled using the method above and place the quart sized pitcher next to the pint. Then, have the student use a one cup measuring cup to fill the quart. Similar procedures would be used for teaching volume in the metric system.

Another favorite of mine is using a fun-sized or larger package of Skittles or M&Ms to teach probability. Procedure: the package is opened, the colors sorted and counted, and create a graph to find out which color there was represented the most. If the student is advanced enough for percentages, I have them figure out what percent of the package was blue. I do the same for the rest of the colors.

There are many other ways to teach children their basic concepts using food. It adds more excitement to their lessons. Since it is out of the ordinary, there is a higher retention rate because they remember how much fun they had that on the day they learned the concept. Both home schooled kids as well as kids who go to regular school can do these or similar activities after school or during their summer breaks to retain what they learned during the prior school year.


Street Talk

Great ideas for engaging the kids - would work for me.

Reply
  about 8 years ago

wow wow wow n who says maths can't be taught in an experiential way? all it takes is some creativity isn't it? i simply lurrrve this post....very interesting. hey actually i was thinking since i luv baking too, i can essentially bake a cake n use it like u wld a pizza to teach abt fractions. i will try ur suggestions....thnks!

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Yes, cake would work great, too. Anything that can be divided into equal parts should work well for fractions. I also use baking as a science lesson because you can talk about the sense of taste and smell. Some of the ingredients taste and smell terrible- even the dough for pizza isn't very appetizing. Then, you could talk about chemical changes that occur during cooking. The chemicals are changed so that it tastes great. There are some physical changes, too. Steam is emitted from the pizza as it cooks, then vaporizes. Anyway, just a thought. Thank you for commenting and the compliments!

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Great article

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Thank you, I appreciate the compliments.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Wow! I abaolutely enjoyed reading this article and find it quite enlightened, because I have 3 young ones; 6, 3, 2 and I'm sure they will love learning this way. You just taught me something creative and now I don't have to frustrate myself trying to teach them the basics, especially my oldest. thanks again:-)

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Thank you! I enjoyed your reaction. I am glad that I could help. I'm just starting my homeschool blog, but I hope to add many more insights that are useful for home school and brick & mortar school families get the best education for their kids.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Interesting way of teaching math.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Thank you for the comment. We still do the traditional way of teaching math, but enjoy a change of pace.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

These are excellent ideas for teaching math. Wish I would have thought of them when my kids were younger. If you can figure out a way to use candy to explain the Quadratic Formula, let me know.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Thanks for the comment, I had to laugh because that would be amazing to use candy for the quadratic formula. You never know, I might figure something out.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Such simple yet effective techniques. I wish more parents would spend the time with their children to help them learn the basics. Its shocking to see the math ability of kids today...they reach straight for a calculator for a simple equation :(

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Thank you for the comments and the compliments. I really think the key to learning is to make it fun and apply it to reality rather than sitting down with tons of book work. I think you are right, people do teach children to rely too much on machines and technology, including calculators.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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