The best way to learn a new skill, for anyone but especially children, is to want and need to.
Flashcards, worksheets, and computer lessons may introduce basic mathematical principles, but in order to conceptualize why these lessons are important, hands-on experiences, turn the abstract into concrete and meaningful concepts. This practical application means that the knowledge is more likely to be absorbed, and the kitchen is a great place to reinforce these skills to serve for years to come.
Shapes, Counting, and Patterns
For young children, counting objects and identifying shapes and patterns is more fun when they are edible!
Comparing different shapes of objects in the kitchen or pantry is an easy way to get started. For more hands on learning, turn shapes into other shapes, like cutting a square-shaped brownie into triangles.
Count the number of cookies in a batch, or ingredients in a recipe.
How many chocolate chips are in a half cup?
Practice patterns by demonstrating how to set the table and where each plate, utensil, and glass goes. Then have them set the table the same way.
From the time kids learn how to tell time, they can be reinforcing it in the kitchen. Timing is essential not only to cooking, but also to planning in general. Learning kitchen time will help kids learn how to tell time better, and how to plan when everything is going to be done so that the whole meal comes together at the same time. This is a helpful skill for everyone to practice.
Teach counting backwards using a kitchen timer.
Ask kids to change time. If it’s 3:30 now and the pizza will be done in 20 minutes, what time will it be?
As kids get older, you can start calculating changes in time. For example, if the cake takes 40-minutes to bake and one-hour to cool, what time should they put the cake in the oven so that it is ready by 6:00?
Measuring ingredients are a big part of cooking, especially baking. Kitchen math and measurements are predominantly fractions. Learning how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions teaches how to scale recipes easily.
Experiment with using the smallest measuring cup to make up other amounts. For example, use the ¼-cup to create half cups, whole cups, or two cups of the needed ingredients.
For younger children, examine the parts of a whole in a more visible way like cutting quesadillas or pizzas in half, thirds, fourths, and so on.. How many quarters make a half or a whole pizza?
Need more or less of a recipe? Ask kids to help you do the math to double it or cut it in half. Start with something easy, like chocolate chip cookies. How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, how many tablespoons in a cup, quart, or pound? Compare wet and dry ingredients and how to measure in a measuring up versus by weight on a scale.
A special thank you to Julia Mohseni of Countryside Montessori!
If you liked this article, you'll LOVE the rest of our Classroom in the Kitchen Series! Check out other topics we've covered below: