Thursday, October 8, 2015

Understanding Fractions Using Food

Fractions can be a tough math unit to teach to younger grades. It may be even more difficult when students are not as interested in the lesson due to the difficulty of it. Therefore, as teachers, we must find other interesting ways to engage the students with our lessons. In most cases, students won't even realize they are learning! I believe incorporating fractions with food such a pie or pizza (or any type of food that can be divided into fractions) would be a great way to teach younger students.

In this type of lesson, a pizza can be divided up into fractions. For example, if we slice a pizza into 8 parts and give away 2 pieces, what would my fraction be? Once students understand the basic principles of fractions they will be able to answer questions like this one. Asking students if they like certain foods like pizza, cake, or pie at the beginning of the lesson will get their attention. It's not even necessary to introduce the lesson as fractions! After a couple examples the teacher could explain what fractions are and how we can use them in this manner.

This strategy is important because it gives the students something to relate to. The teacher may also reward the class by brining in the foods used in the example for an end-of-unit task. This will also give the students something to look forward to and keep their participation levels up.


  1. Rob,

    I like your idea of introducing a new manipulative in the classroom such as food (i.e. pizza, pie, cake, cookies etc.). Students of the 21st century are influenced by their surroundings and their interests are continually changing. I don’t think old methods of manipulatives are obsolete (we still need them), but it is nice to see a fun an interactive way to introduce a delicious treat in relation to mathematics.

    Another way to make this type of mathematics lesson cross curricular would be to have a procedural writing lesson prior to introducing the fractions where they list the steps necessary to making cookies. The final procedural steps in making cookies would be come up with the WHOLE class. Students will practice their procedural writing and then make cookies with a small group of students! Have them carry out the final draft for the procedural writing and then those cookies can be used for a mathematics lesson. For example, how can you represent ½ with your cookie? What about ¼?

    Having a new interesting and yummy treat to learn mathematics helps spark interest for learners, but it is always important to remember treats should be allergy safe and parent approved. It is always important to send a newsletter home when it comes to food!

    Christina Whates

  2. I think there are many ways that food can be used as a manipulative, so I like this idea. I would also suggest maybe having kids bring in their own recipes from home that their parents use and have them analyze the different fractions that are involved in making their favourite foods. You could bring in measuring cups and have them measure out different quantities (ie. how half cups can go into a full cup) and so on.

    I could also see the food idea/recipes be applied to conversion (metric to imperial) as well. I think one good experience that could come from this (especially in an elementary school classroom) would be to actually then make something in class; for example, no-bake cookies are an easy recipe that can be modified to suit a wide range of dietary needs but also be a fun (and surprisingly not messy) way to celebrate and consolidate student learning!

    This recipe is actually pretty much allergen free (peanut and gluten free, can be modified for dairy free)

  3. I like the idea of using food to teach math concepts.. which student doesn't get excited at the idea of eating something in class. I think what's really important here more than the food is the visual representation - the use of manipulatives or concrete objects to help students understand various concepts. One thing to be aware of when bringing food into the classroom are allergies. I know in my particular school we are not able to bring in treats just to be on the safe side. If we do bring anything in, we need to send home a letter to all parents indicating the ingredients found in the foods we are sharing. It can be done, just requires more preparation. Having something tangible with which to model here is key. This transfers into so many other areas of the curriculum as well - making the connections. One example I often use when trying to teach fractions is to tell students to think about their tests. If your fraction is 20/30, pretend it was your score on a test. From there we can convert to a decimal or a percentage, or whatever the question may want us to do. When you think of numbers as real life situations, and not just numbers, they can be easier to work with. Thanks for sharing your post!