Renowned American chef Julia Child once said, “I’m very happy…if I can influence anyone to keep in the kitchen and make it a real family room and part of your life.” Does that statement ring true for your kitchen?

Whether you’re preparing a Thanksgiving feast or a simple family dinner, baking a birthday cake or sharing an afternoon snack, the kitchen is the heart of any home. It’s the place to go for stirring, simmering, whipping, and whirring.

Did you know, though, that the kitchen can also become an in-house classroom and a great space for learning? It’s true! And you can learn much more than just how to cook. The kitchen is a great place to learn math and even science!

From tiny teaspoons to massive measuring cups, our kitchens are full of tools that can help take abstract mathematical concepts from the chalkboard to the dinner table. Even the simplest recipes require basic math skills. Expanding upon recipes can take you even deeper into fractions, multiplication, and division!

For example, do you know the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon? A teaspoon is a common culinary measurement that’s equal to approximately one-sixth of a fluid ounce. A tablespoon is equal to three teaspoons.

If a recipe calls for six teaspoons of vanilla extract and you want to double the recipe, how many teaspoons of vanilla extract would you need to include? If you only have a tablespoon, how many tablespoons of vanilla extract would you include? If you said twelve teaspoons and four tablespoons, you’re ready for the kitchen!

When it comes to measurement, estimation, proportions, or even simple addition, cooking together is a hands-on way to feed your hunger for knowledge. If you’ve ever WONDERed why you have to learn math, the kitchen will help you develop an appreciation for math as both fun and useful.

Even more important, time spent in the kitchen offers you and your friends and family members time to connect with each other and create batches of sweet memories. Cooking together can be a great time to share the events of your day with those you love.

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  1. Parents can use cooking and the kitchen as a classroom for many subjects. In addition to math, there are many science lessons to be learned, as well.

    Alton Brown, star of Food Network’s “Good Eats,” is one of my favorite culinary scientists. You never know what you’re going to learn when Alton steps into the kitchen. Check out this video if you’ve ever wondered why cutting an onion makes you cry:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU-gfFzC6Uw

  2. I once cooked in math class once! I once made pumpkin bread using measurements. It was yummy!!! Another time, I made fruit punch. It was also very yummy!!! The fruit punch included apple juice, orange juice,and cranberry juice. Did you know that three 1/3 cups make a cup and four 1/4 cups make a cup. I learned this in math class. Have a WONDERful day!!!! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing about all the WONDERful treats you made in math class, Julie! How fun! We appreciate you letting us know what you learned about measurements, too! You’re a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

  3. I think math can help you cook because some time you need to use fractions such as half a cup of sugar when cooking. For example, when me and my mom cook, she always starts off by taking out her measuring cups. That is one way math can help you cook.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How can math help you cook?
  • What’s the difference between a tablespoon and a teaspoon?
  • How can you create your own recipe?

Wonder Gallery

shutterstock_22144966mathcook-4mathcook-2mathcook-1mathcook-3Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready for some hands-on cooking experience? Explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • You don’t need to be a gourmet chef to share the joys of cooking and learning with your friends and family members. Something as simple as a chocolate chip cookie recipe can provide countless opportunities to bring math to life in the kitchen. Practice measuring out ingredients using different sizes of measuring cups. How many 1/3 scoops does it take to make 1 cup? How many 1/4 scoops? If your recipe makes one dozen cookies but you’d like to invite 24 imaginary guests for dinner, experiment with doubling the recipe together.
  • In 2001, Julia Child donated her kitchen to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where it was reassembled for visitors to experience. The Smithsonian now makes it possible for you to tour Julia’s kitchen online from the comfort of yours. No need to travel across the country to get inspired by one of America’s most beloved chefs — just click in. Bon appétit!
  • Up for a challenge? Create your own recipe by building your own ice cream sundae. Gather up a variety of toppings such as nuts, candies, chocolate chips, syrups, sprinkles, and dried and fresh fruits. Place a scoop of ice cream in a bowl, then let the creativity roll! Using measuring spoons and cups of various sizes, design your own delectable masterpiece. Keep track of the measurement amounts for each topping you add to your sundae. When you are finished, give your creation to a friend or family member and build another sundae following your recipe — for you! All that’s left to do is grab two spoons…and dig in! Who knew math could be so yummy?

 

Still Wondering

In Science NetLinks’ Estimation and Measurement lesson, students practice measuring in an exploratory environment to develop familiarity with the concepts and tools of measurement.

Test Your Knowledge

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