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Number Crunching: Four Resources That Use Food to Teach Middle School Math

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By Katie O’Mahoney

As a middle school math teacher, I was constantly looking for ways to incite my students’ interests in math.  Unsurprisingly, and without fail, my students were always the most engaged when the lesson felt relevant and meaningful to their life, and when it centered on food.  However, I often found that such lessons were incredibly time consuming to create.  I always wished that there were vetted resources to refer to that incorporated food into the lesson.  Who doesn’t like to eat and learn at the same time?

My wish has been granted.  Below is a list of interactive lesson plans and videos from PBS LearningMedia that use cooking, baking, and grocery shopping to teach students mathematical concepts.  If you want to make your lesson a little messier and more fun, bring in food for your students to work with and eat at the end of class.  These lessons also serve as a great way to introduce students to topics about healthy eating and nutrition.  Bon appétit!

Ratio and Proportional Reasoning: Food Labels Lesson Plan and Interactive Materials: Grades 5 – 8
In this blended lesson supporting literacy skills, students watch videos, and complete interactive activities to learn how to use fractions to interpret food labels and make healthy eating choices.


Multiplying Fractions by Whole Numbers: Recipes Lesson Plan and Interactive Materials: Grades 5 – 8
In this blended lesson supporting literacy skills, students watch videos and complete interactive activities involving recipes to learn about fractions, and learn how to perform certain operations with fractions.

Big Sale Interactive Game: Grades 6 – 7
In this interactive activity, students learn how to solve unit rate problems to determine the best deal per ounce of grocery items.  Students also learn how to recognize how math concepts, like rate and ratio, can be used in everyday situations.

Cake Designer Video: Grades 3 – 9
In this video a cake designer describes how she uses math in her recipes and designs. Students will relate the importance of mathematics to the field of cake designing.

Katie O’Mahoney is an Intern at KQED Education and a student in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University.  She has also worked as a middle and high school math teacher in the Bay Area.

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