Learning maths need not always be about practising sums. Teach your child these essential mathematical skills while cooking up a storm.
By Sarika Chuni
Paul Halmos, a Hungairan 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 maths, 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 measuring portions and counting the calories in their food, 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.
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. Let your child take the lead: The next time you have to visit the neighbourhood supermarket to replenish your pantry, how about asking your child to make the shopping list and pick up the required quantity from the store shelves? If she is old enough to understand the concept of money, ask her to pay for the haul and count the right change as well.
2. Estimate the total cost: Estimation is an important skill in mathematics. It teaches us to approximate without having to fish out a calculator. Ask your child to estimate the cash they might need to pay at the end. It will be a great high for the child when his estimate falls close to the actual cost.
3. Calculate discounts: Who doesn’t like getting a discount on something? This is for children who are old enough to understand the concept of percentage and discounts. With nearly all supermarket chains offering great discounts on products these days, you can get your child to compute the better deal. Not only will this exercise teach her some important maths skills, but it will also teach her how to save money.
Now that you have bought the kitchen supplies home, you must get down to the nitty-gritty and start cooking. Calculating ratios and proportion, using metric measurements and cooking in batches, are all great ways to teach your child basic mathematical skills.
4. Measure the right quantity: A successful dish requires correct measurement. Often recipes call for cups, grams or teaspoons. Put up an equivalency chart in your kitchen. While you’re cooking with your child and don’t have a tablespoon at hand, ask him to look at how many teaspoons will equal one tablespoon. This will teach him the concept of equivalency in measurement.
5. Mix the ingredients: Make your child’s favourite dish and involve her in the preparation. Adding dry or wet ingredients together will give children the concept of ratios, proportions and mixed numbers.
6. Fix the portion: What if your child wants you to bake his favourite cookies for his friends at school? Well, get him involved in the process. Give him the task of measuring the quantity of ingredients required for the portion he is planning. Children can use their knowledge of multiplication and division of fractions in the process, and understand why they need to learn these tricky things at school.
This part of the kitchen activity teaches children the importance of nutrition, even at the primary level. Calculating the number of calories in the food they eat, will not only reinforce maths skills but also make them understand the importance of a balanced diet. Make sure you have a calorie requirement chart along with calories found in different food groups available, for reference.
7. Calculate calories: Ask your children to calculate the number of calories they might consume in a packet of chips versus the calories they will consume in a homemade potato dish. Have a discussion about the result.
8. Teach them BMR and BMI: The BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate is a calorie formula that uses the factors of height, weight, age and gender to determine someone’s caloric need. Ask your children to calculate their BMR. The BMI or Body Mass Index is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight. Keep the BMI chart handy for reference and ask them to calculate it for themselves.
9. Build a nutritional chart: Based on their knowledge of required nutrition, help your children make their own ‘daily servings nutritional chart’. This will not only teach them addition and data handling, but also encourage a healthy eating habit.
There are a number of other ways in which you can involve your child in the kitchen and teach them important maths and science skills. Children learn much more when they are involved in an activity as opposed to just referring to their notebooks. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to have fun. So, go ahead and cook up some maths skills!
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