Tips for cooking up meaningful math experiences

Measuring…Summer Fun!

Becky & Bob Barnes

One mixing bowl, two spinning beaters, three sticks of butter, four separated eggs, and five cups of flour; who says math is boring? There are dozens of opportunities for kids to learn math in the kitchen this summer, especially measurements and fractions.

The trick to having children learn about units of measure is to provide them with meaningful experiences that highlight measurement, repeating the experiences until all aspects of measurement become second nature. When you tell your child there are 16 ounces in a pound, have him weigh out 1 pound of candy or nuts and experience the heaviness of the bag. Compare the pound of candy or nuts to a half-pound bag of coffee, pretzels, or a two-pound slice of ham. This provides the child with an image of a pound, its parts and its expansions.

When a recipe requires you to beat eggs for one minute, remind your child that there are 60 seconds in a minute. Count to 60, at the rate of one count per second, so the child can get a feeling for how long both a second and a minute. If the roast needs to bake for 15 minutes per pound, explain that 15 minutes is a quarter of an hour and let your child figure out when the roast should be done. Using an analog clock is also good practice for counting by fifteens.

Measurement provides a good introduction to fractions as well as a way to deepen your child’s understanding of fractional parts.  Students in Sixth Grade and higher should know most of the fraction facts listed below.  These facts and concepts are part of basic number sense and become part of a child’s foundation which leads to success in middle and high school math classrooms. Most teachers assume that students already have mastered these basics. Be creative, and you will discover you can review many of these facts while you are cooking, whether you have to triple a recipe or cut it in half.

  • A half plus a half equals a whole.  Dividing something in half makes two equal parts.
  • One-fourth plus one-half equals three fourths.
  • Half-of-a-half is a quarter or one-fourth or 1/4.
  • Half-of-a-quarter is an eighth or 1/8.
  • Half-of-an-eighth is a sixteenth or 1/16.
  • Half-of-a-sixteenth is a thirty-second or 1/32.
  • You can cut a line segment in half forever.  (This is an important but difficult concept for some children to understand.)

Having your children help you plan your meals this summer will show them practical applications of what they are learning in school. Another great way to help your children apply math to life is in a trip to the local grocery store. Summer is full of opportunities to help your children keep their math skills sharp. You and your child can work together to help prevent what is sometimes called the Summer Slide.*

*“During the summer months, many students lose 2 to 2.5 months of the math computational skills learned during the school year.” (Washington Post, June 2009)


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By Blue Ribbon News special contributors Bob and Becky Barnes with Mathnasium Learning Center, 919 E. Interstate 30, Suite 126 in Rockwall. Email or visit  

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