We Learn From What We Eat

I guess I might be a better eater than I am a student, and if your child bears any resemblance to me, then I can offer you some empathy. I can also offer you some advice: try to use food to aid learning, because not only can you bribe your children with chocolate, you can show kids that food is an example of math in the real world.


1) At the Supermarket

Grocery shopping is a good place to start and keeping your kids busy may prevent a tantrum in aisle three.

  • Before you go, prepare a list. Get your kids to help you decide how many milk, eggs and other basics are necessary to last a week.
  • If you are organized, then check your coupons. Ask your children how much money they can save.
  • Prepare a budget and get your children to refer to it as they are shopping, this helps with addition and subtraction.
  • Compare different brands at the supermarket for basics like flour. Which one is cheaper? Is it cheaper to buy in bulk?
  • Have your child estimate the weight of potatoes (or other fruit or vegetables). Ask for a specific amount like two pounds and see how many potatoes they have to add/remove to get to two pounds of potatoes.
  • Devise methods for estimating what the bill might be. Whether it’s rounding up the cost of items, or giving each item an average price. See where (if) you went wrong.
  • Try and encourage your child to calculate how much change you will need before the cashier does it for you.


2) Cooking

Cooking is a great life skill and one that you really value when you pair off with someone who can’t boil an egg. So start your children cooking as early as possible and teach them some math and fractions along the way.

  • For starters get your children to measure the ingredients in a recipe.
  • If you feel like challenging them, use the metric system and get them to convert quantities.
  • Try doubling a recipe. This is great for understanding fractions so if ¾ of a cup of milk is doubled, get them to estimate and measure how much milk they will need. This is a fantastic visual.
  • Baking is great for math. Ask your child to estimate what would happen if you poured cake mixture into different sized tins. How would it impact cooking time? How would it change the surface area of the mixture?
  • Ask your children to make a salad dressing, see which ingredients sink and which float, a great lesson about volumes and density.
  • Try and use a recipe of ratios for dressing (one part vinegar to two parts oil etc.). Ask them to figure out how much dressing they will need. This helps with fractions and visualizing quantities.


3) Eating

You can teach your children math as they eat and simultaneously get them to do some household work for you.

  • Ask your children to divide something like pizza or cake into various portions for their eating companions.
  • You can get clever with circular objects by asking your children to calculate the surface area of their pizza and the area of each piece.
  • Ask your children to serve everyone at the table, but with caveats. For example, Mommy eats twice as much as you but only a third more than daddy.
  • Ask your kids to work out the magic quantity of wine that mommy needs to feel relaxed, but not hungover the next day. This one is important.

Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of one.  She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.