Learning Maths in the Kitchen

At the beginning of 2021, most pupils are learning from home once again due the national Covid-19 lockdown.  This is a difficult time for everybody, with teachers and pupils both facing very real challenges.  The home environment is not equipped like a school, and even pupils who have a quiet workspace and the right IT equipment don’t have the physical resources we can find in the secondary maths classroom.  Very few pupils own things like counters or solid fraction tiles which they can handle.  Nobody I know has a trundle wheel in their garage for example!  However, the home does have one thing which the maths classroom doesn’t have – a kitchen!

Maths in the Kitchen

While your pupils are at home, why not set them a maths challenge in their kitchen.  The kitchen is a maths classroom of its own, suitable for teaching ratio, measurement, and conversion between metric and imperial units.   This type of activity would particularly suit your younger pupils.  Older pupils would certainly benefit from using maths while baking, they may just need a bit more persuading!

Before you begin, don’t forget to cover all your Health and Safety Bases – e.g. remind your pupils about food hygiene, using the oven with an adult etc. etc...…

What maths do you need to bake Mary Berry’s fork biscuits?

Think about a really simple biscuit recipe – for example Mary Berry’s Fork Biscuits:

Basic Ingredients for Mary Berry’s Fork Biscuits, with our possible adjustments (Makes 16)

• 100g butter (margarine will be ok for your pupils too)
• 50g Caster Sugar (if you don’t have it use granulated)
• 150g self-raising flour (if a pupil only has plain flour, then that will still produce a biscuit that is ok, but self-raising is preferable)

Using such a simple recipe will mean that more of your pupils can have a go, as they won’t need special equipment or ingredients, and crucially they won’t need to crack an egg!  How much maths can there be in one simple biscuit? Let’s have a look, but you may have lots more exciting ideas you want to explore.

Imperial to Metric

Mary has written down her ingredients using Imperial Measurements, can you convert them back to Metric?  (Don’t tell them the metric weights at first.)

Proportion

Mary’s recipe was for a party of 20 people – but you want to make it suitable for 4 people, can you scale the recipe?  (Give the pupils an initial version of the recipe which is far too big.  But not too big, as there will certainly be one pupil who forgets to reduce it!)

Weighing and Measuring

Use a set of weighing scales.  If you don’t have scales (and some pupils won’t) use the quantities on the packet to measure out what you need. So, if your margarine is in a 500g tub and you need 100g, divide it into 5 sections and use one of them.

Dividing up the mixture

The basic recipe asks you to divide your mixture into 16 equal pieces.  If you have scales, then how much should each piece weigh?  If you don’t have scales can you divide into 16 by dividing in half three times?

Using the oven

Pupils will get experience of using the temperature scale on their oven (with adult supervision).

Cost

You may wish to provide some example costs of ingredients and ask pupils to work out how much each biscuit cost to make (perhaps including a small fixed cost for the electricity used by the oven).  If Mary sells each biscuit for 25p at a bake sale how much profit could she make for charity?

Decoration

If your pupils have the means to decorate their biscuits why not get them to photograph their mathematical designs and have a mini bake off of your own…

Food intolerances

These biscuits will still work if you use dairy free margarine.  If you use gluten free flour they will still taste nice, but will just be crumblier and more difficult to handle.

Once everyone is back in school

Maybe you are reading this article long after the National Lockdown has finished.  You can still try these activities as part of a homework, or even as a cross-curricular activity in a school kitchen.

For most pupils making maths biscuits will be an enjoyable experience which will cheer them up in the middle of lockdown.  Make sure you give them plenty of time to complete this baking challenge, as their family may not go shopping that often and they may need time to collect the right ingredients.

Using up wastage

Some pupils may not normally use self-raising flour at home – can they research a recipe of their own choice which uses up some more of their ingredients?

Ratio

And finally, who is going to eat the 16 biscuits?  Can they divide them in the ratio 3:5 with a family member?