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Bake it count

It is a truth universally acknowledged that maths is a chore.

If only we lived in a world full of opportunity to understand early maths concepts with accessible, useful, tangible examples that could be learned organically. Oh, wait...

Maybe we should instead universally acknowledge that maths is too often made less enjoyable, less relevant and more difficult than it needs to be. And stop doing that.

One of the places we 'do maths' is in the kitchen, simply because that's where it naturally happens. It doesn't always have to be served at a table or a desk to be valid; maths can be weighed up and mixed in as we blend, boil and bake, and can produce something to be sliced up and savoured, simultaneously satisfying the innate desires to learn and to lick the spoon.

Because I like lists, here are some mathematical concepts* that can be brought to life in the kitchen without too much bother, or perhaps without even meaning to:

- Shapes - 2D & 3D. Cookies cutters, cake tins, baking trays, blocks of butter.

- Counting

- Weights and volume

- Conversions. Granny's recipe for cake in ounces? Let's go! Oven temperature given in Fahrenheit? Get a calculator! (And probably Google the formula because it's bonkers.)

- Halving (and other fractions). E.g. "This recipe will make a massive quantity of cookies and we don't need that many - let's halve it." / "This cake needs to feed a x people, can you cut it into x equal slices?"

- Doubling (and other multiplications) E.g. "This recipe will make nowhere near enough cookies to meet our current cookie requirements - let's double it, and feast on the return."

- Ratios

- Temperature

- Time

- Measurement (e.g. roll biscuit dough to thickness of 0.5cm; shape this pizza base to around a 20cm so it stays on the tray)

- Diameter (e.g. of a cake tin)

- Digital displays - becoming familiar with how numbers are represented on a utilitarian seven segment digital display (like those found on digital scales and oven timers)

- Vocabulary (e.g. more/less than, greater/fewer, dozen/half dozen, enough, equal, heavier/lighter, each/every other/alternate, positional and instructional language...a lot, basically.)

Something that's worked really well for M alongside baking is recognising place value for three digit numbers. I supported this with a homemade resource, which is fairly niche I grant you, but I wanted to offer it up to others who also exist within this niche to make the time invested in making these go further.

These are usually called 'arrow cards', although I didn't include a pointy arrow end on ours as I wanted to laminate them so they could be wiped clean of cake batter, and laminated points can be quite sharp and scratchy.

There's a printable download for this resource below, along with some printing pointers, and some bonus activities.

(I found a physical version of these, up to number 999, on a popular educational resources website which shall not be named for £20.33 (including delivery and VAT). £20.33! This homemade version cost a fraction of that in printing, coloured paper and laminator pouches, and goes up to 1,000,000. Which is great, because I'll have already spent the saving, many times over, on books.)

But first, here's an unfussy and fairly forgiving recipe for flapjacks to try them out on!

Unfussy and fairly forgiving flapjack recipe:

In a saucepan, melt a medley of...

250g butter

175g light soft brown sugar

90g golden syrup

Mix this into...

500g of base mix (mostly/entirely oats, with some dried fruit, nuts, etc if you want to mix it up) in a big bowl

Once it's all had a big stir, tip the lot into a lined dish/tray and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes/until the edges are turning golden brown.

Cool completely in the dish/tray before slicing. (Eat as much unbaked/unset mixture as you like before this point. Waiting is hard.)

(Printable place value cards below...scroll on down)


Place Value Cards
Download PDF • 291KB

*Cooking and baking also offer a whole host of other learning opportunities that I could easily take for granted if I didn't deliberately think of them, too. Like, provenance, manufacture/farming, science, different countries/cultures, history, nutrition, practical life skills...the whole thing is an excellent excuse to make and eat a variety of delicious treats and I am all over it.

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