In ‘Real World Math’, Richard makes math fun and engaging to kids, while satisfying their innate desire to understand how things work. Richard figures that if he can make math fun for kids that it will also satisfy their curiosity and point their energy in a positive direction.

As every parent knows, kids love to help cook things, and while they view this process mostly as a chance to play mad scientist with the flour and butter and vanilla, there’s are some great opportunities to introduce useful math concepts whenever you cook together.

For younger kids (2-5), it’ll be more about very simple concepts (counting eggs, identifying shapes of sticks of butter, pepperoni slices, etc.).

But for those 6 and up you can start introducing them to real world fractions, estimating, measuring, and distribution principles.

Try these two recipes that teach math in a practical way:

Pepperoni Pizza

Teaches counting, fractions, estimating, distribution principles

Ingredients:

  • Pre-made pizza crust (can get on from a take-and-bake place or even a Domino’s, etc. if you call ahead)
  • 1 ½ c. grated mozzarella cheese
  • 22-28 slices of pepperoni (Canadian bacon, etc.)
  • Pizza sauce

Spread the pizza sauce even over the surface of the crust, then top with cheese and other toppings. Bake at 450° for 6-8 minutes (more if crust is thicker). Allow to cool 2 minutes before cutting, then cut into 8 slices.

While preparing:

  • Looking at the block/bag of cheese, if we’ve grated 1½ cups, how much is left?
  • If we were making 2 pizzas like this one, would we need another block/bag?
  • How many pieces of pepperoni do you think will be on each slice?

After it’s baked and cut:

  • If we eat half the pizza, how much will we have left? In eighths? (if 8 slices)
  • If we wanted to add 2 pieces of pineapple for every pepperoni how many would we need?
  • If we were going to make 3 pizzas and could only bake them one at a time, how long would that take?

More advanced:

  • If each person can eat 3 slices of pizza and there are 6 people, how many pizzas like this one do we need to make?
  • What percentage of the pizza is each slice?
  • How much cheese is on each slice?

And here’s one for dessert:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Teaches measurement, fractions, estimating, distribution principles

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12 oz) chocolate chips

Bake at 375° for 9-11 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet.

While mixing:

  • If we have 3/4 of a cup of sugar, how much would we have add to get to a whole cup – 4/4?
  • Since we use 2 sticks of butter to get a cup, how much is 1 stick of butter?
  • How many chocolate chips do you think we’re putting in? How could you guess?

After they’re baked:

  • How many chocolate chips do you think are in each cookie?
  • Will they all have the same number, or will some have different numbers of chips?
  • How could we find out about how many chips are in each cookie?
  • If we wanted the exact number of chips in each cookie, how would we do that?

More advanced:

  • OK, we made x number of cookies…so how much butter is in each one (fraction of a cup)?
  • What percentage of an egg is in each cookie?
  • How much flour is in each cookie?

The two recipes above are very easy, kid- (and Dad) tested. I’ve included some principles you can introduce as you think appropriate…the overall goal though is to get your kids used to seeing math functioning around them in important ways, so that from the beginning they see a reason to learn math other than just that they’re “supposed to.”

The idea behind the “Real World Math” series comes from seeing the innate desire in my kids to understand how things work as well as to know why they have to do their math homework (reading is fun, but math?!). I figured if I could make math fun and engaging to the kids that it’d also satisfy their curiosity and point their energy in a positive direction when doing chores, hitting the road, or planning out shopping for back to school clothes.