Maths In Kitchen: 9 Interesting Ways To Teach Your Child

Learning maths need not always be about practising sums. Here’s how to make maths interesting for your child by allowing him to count, measure and sort items in the kitchen.

By Sarika Chuni  • 9 min read

Maths In Kitchen: 9 Interesting Ways To Teach Your Child

Paul Halmos, a Hungarian Jewish mathematician known for simplifying complicated mathematical concepts, once famously said, “The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics.”

Mathematics is something that is inextricably tied to our daily lives. Where would we be without a concept of time or money or knowing how to mix the right portions of milk, sugar and tea leaves to get us our daily cup of tea? Yet, we often make the mistake of restricting maths problems to abstract sums in school textbooks. When children learn to use mathematics in daily life, they also learn computation, problem-solving and critical thinking skills simultaneously.

What’s more, you don’t need expensive teaching equipment or lab kits to teach maths and science to your children. From buying groceries to organizing the pantry by storing items in containers of various sizes and measuring portions for kid-friendly recipes, children can learn about various mathematical concepts in the comfort of your kitchen. This way, children see how they use maths in everyday life for doing the simplest of things and recognise its importance.

Nine interesting ways you can teach maths to your child in the kitchen

While shopping for groceries:

There is a lot of maths involved when shopping for food and kitchen items. We must estimate costs, plan for meals and stay within the budget while buying groceries.

1. Basic number concepts

For preschoolers

The activity: The next time you have to visit the neighbourhood supermarket to replenish your pantry, how about asking your child to make a shopping list of the items he wants and pick up the required quantity from the store shelves? Say, he would like to buy three packets of biscuits and one bottle of jam but you notice that he has taken only two packets of biscuits. You can ask your child to count aloud the number of biscuit packets in the cart. Count along with your child – “One, two.” Once he realizes that he has only two, you can ask him to pick one more packet from the shelf and add to the basket to make it three.

How it will help: Teaching through visual representation is a great way to introduce preschoolers to concepts of addition and subtraction. This activity will also help improve your child’s basic counting skills.

2. Estimating the requirement

For school-age children

The activity: Ask your child to estimate the number of packets of candies she might need to buy to distribute among her class-mates. Let’s say a packet of 30 candies costs Rs 100. How many packets would she have to buy to distribute to her class of 90 students and what will be the total cost?

How it helps: Estimation is an important skill in mathematics. It will teach your child to approximate quickly without the help of a calculator.

3. Calculating a discount

For school-age children

The activity: Nearly all supermarket chains and E-commerce websites are offering great discounts on products these days. Explain to your child that “10% off” or “20% off” for a product means you get it for a lower price. You can then get your child to compute the price based on the discount offered. You can start with a simple exercise such as asking to calculate the price of an item that carries a 50% discount or a 25% discount.

How it helps: This activity is for children who are old enough to understand the concept of percentage and discounts. Not only will it help your child develop an understanding of an important maths concept, but it will also teach her how to save money.

While cooking:

Now that you have brought the kitchen supplies home, you must get down to the nitty-gritty and start cooking. Calculating ratios and proportions, using metric measurements and cooking in batches, are all great ways to teach your child basic mathematical skills.

4. Basic number concepts

For preschoolers

The activity: A fun way to introduce measurement concepts to small children is by involving them in a fun activity like making chapattis. You can ask your child to add two cups of flour into a bowl while counting aloud – “One, two”. Then let him add 10 tablespoons of water to the flour while saying the numbers from 1 to 10 out loud. Let your child knead the dough and roll it into balls. You can then ask him to count the number of dough balls he has and how many chapattis he can make out of them.

How it helps: While playing with dough is fun, it also has the added benefit of teaching your child to measure the quantity of ingredients required to prepare the dough.

5. Measuring portions

For school-age children

The activity: Older kids can help you with measuring the weight of the ingredients required to make their favourite dish. Often recipes call for weighing the ingredients in terms of grams, pounds or ounces. If you have a digital weighing scale in the kitchen, it is easy for your child to practically weigh the ingredients in different units and hand it over to you.

How it helps: Routinely weighing items using a kitchen scale will sharpen your child’s skills in estimating weights and learning about the various units of weight measurement.

6. Ratios and proportions

For school-age children

You can engage your child in the following activities.

Activity 1: Lime juice is one simple drink your little one can prepare on her own provided she knows how much of each ingredient she needs to add. You can explain to her that to prepare one glass of lemon juice, she will need to squeeze the juice from one lemon into one glass of water and add two tablespoons of sugar to it. You can gradually ask her to prepare two glasses of lime juice and explain the need to proportionately increase the quantity of lime extract and sugar.

Activity 2: Cooking rice, preparing tea and measuring pulses for soaking are some simple kitchen activities that give older children hands-on practice in understanding ratio and proportions. For instance, water and rice need to be in 2:1 ratio. For one cup of tea, the ratio of water to milk is again 2:1. Likewise, it takes 3 parts of water to soak 1 part of pulses.

How it helps: Taking proportionate portions of different ingredients and mixing them together will help children grasp the concept of ratios, proportions and mixed numbers.

7. Understanding shapes

For preschool children

The activity: What if your child wants you to bake his favourite cookies? Well, it’s a good opportunity for you to introduce him to some of the basic shapes such as square, rectangle and triangle in a way he will understand. You can get him involved in the process right from mixing the cookie dough to cutting a shape out of the dough. For this you will need cookie cutters of various shapes. Alternatively, you can also show him how to shape the dough using a picture chart of various shapes. It is important to name each shape while your child is shaping the dough. Once you have baked the cookies in the oven and allowed them to cool, you can hand them over to your child and ask him if he remembers the name of each shape.

How it helps: Baking cookies is a great way for your child to discover and learn some basic shapes.

8. Calculating time

For school-age children

The activity: There are many activities in the kitchen which involve measuring time intervals. For example, if you are baking a cake in a microwave, you can set the cake pan inside and ask your child to set the time and temperature.

How it helps: Looking at a clock and telling the time can be difficult for preschoolers and younger children. However, allowing older children to partake in cooking activities which involve calculating time intervals help them practise and develop a clear understanding of time concepts.

9. Calculating calories

For school-age children

The activity: Ask your children to calculate the number of calories they might consume in a packet of chips by looking at the food label. Explain to your child how calories are units that measure energy present in food and how consuming more calories than needed can cause weight gain.

How it helps: Calculating the number of calories in the food they eat, will not only reinforce maths skills but also make them understand the importance of avoiding junk food and eating a balanced diet. Make sure you have a calorie requirement chart along with calories found in different food groups available, for reference.

There are a number of other ways in which you can involve your children in the kitchen and teach them important maths and science concepts. Children learn better when they are involved in an activity rather than by just referring to their books. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to have fun. So, go ahead and cook up some maths skills!

About the author:

Written by Sarika Chuni on 18 July 2018; updated on 29 October 2020

Sarika Chuni is a Special Educator (specializing in learning disabilities) and a Management Graduate, with a diverse experience in the corporate and the non-profit sector.

Looking for fun ways to keep your preschooler engaged at home during the pandemic? Check out Little Learners at Home, a home learning programme specifically designed for 3 to 5 year olds by our team of experts.

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