Teaching Math Through Cooking: Fun, Engaging Lessons for Homeschoolers

teaching math through cooking featured image

You know your kitchen can be used as a classroom, right? When it comes to teaching math, cooking is a surprisingly effective method that brings lessons to life. Imagine measuring ingredients, timing recipes, and portioning food—all while sneaking in math practice. It’s a win-win!

Kids love hands-on activities and cooking together can make math so much more enjoyable. Plus, who doesn’t appreciate a little help with dinner?

By integrating math into everyday tasks, you’re not just teaching fractions and multiplication; you’re showing the kids how such skills are necessary in real life.

And let’s be honest, it can take the boredom out of traditional math lessons.

So, grab those aprons and mixing bowls. I’m sharing how math can be made meaningful, memorable and fun right in the comfort of your own kitchen!

The Benefits of Teaching Math Through Cooking

Cooking together in the kitchen isn’t just about making a meal; it’s also a powerful way to teach your kids math while incorporating functional life skills!

When I was a teacher, I’d always make sure to include as many real-life lessons into our schedule as possible. Bookwork certainly has it’s benefits, but there’s nothing like participating in a hands-on activity like cooking!

Now that I’m a homeschooling mom, I make sure to do the same with my kids. While they do take online math classes with Mr. D Math and CTC Math, teaching math through cooking is one of my favorite activities to do with them! I’m pretty sure they agree that

Real-World Applications

When kids learn math concepts through cooking, they’re learning skills they’ll use in real life. Measuring flour, counting eggs, and dividing pizza slices aren’t just math problems—they’re essential tasks. When children see how math helps in daily activities, the concept becomes more understandable and relevant.

set of kitchen knives sitting in a kitchen drawer organizer
I know it’s scary, but teaching kids how to cook will benefit them for their entire lives!

Not convinced? Check out the real-life examples:

  • Measuring Ingredients: Using cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons to measure ingredients teaches kids about fractions and volumes.
  • Time Management: Timing how long a recipe takes helps with understanding minutes and hours.
  • Proportions: Adjusting a recipe to serve more or fewer people involves multiplication and division.

By linking math to activities kids already find familiar and enjoyable, you make those math concepts memorable!

Engagement and Motivation

Let’s face it: traditional math lessons can feel a bit boring. But cooking? That’s an adventure! There’s always a task to be done while cooking & baking…and that’s what keeps the kids engaged and motivated to learn!

Consider this: When kids have a chance to mix, measure, and pour, they’re more likely to stay focused. Cooking turns abstract numbers into tangible, hands-on experiences. Plus, who doesn’t love to taste-test along the way?

two boys proud of the meal they just made all by themselves
They’re SO proud of themselves when they make a delicious meal all on their own!

A few ways cooking helps keep kids engaged:

  • Interactive Learning: Hands-on activities make learning more exciting. Allow the kids to whisk an egg or measure out a cup of flour!
  • Satisfaction: Seeing a cake rise or cookies bake gives immediate results and gratification. Cooking successfully seems like an unattainable skill to so many (how many time have you heard a family members say they’re not good at cooking?), but seeing the ingredients come together to create the intended bit of deliciousness? My 10 year old would say “that’s as satisfying as ASMR on TikTok.”
  • Responsibility: Taking charge of a task gives kids a sense of accomplishment. Consider putting kids in charge of a certain task like chopping carrots, measuring out dry ingredients, or stirring ingredients while cooking in a pot.

Involving them in cooking not only teaches math but also helps build their confidence.

You know what else? If your kids aren’t necessarily fond of certain ingredients like fruits and vegetables, studies have found that, if kids help with preparing a vegetable (for example), they’re more likely to eat it. Score!

Developing Multiple Skills

Cooking isn’t just about math—it’s a multi-disciplinary activity that helps kids develop a variety of skills. They’ll practice reading by following recipes, improve their fine motor skills through mixing and chopping, and learn to follow step-by-step instructions.

colorful measuring cups on top of a butcher block countertop
Consider getting a few sets of durable measuring cups so each child can have a set!

Other skills developed through cooking include:

  • Reading: Reading and understanding recipes improves literacy skills.
  • Following Instructions: Cooking teaches the importance of following steps in order.
  • Fine Motor Skills: Stirring, chopping, and measuring develop coordination and precision.

Funny story: I have been known to hand my kids an easy-to-prepare box mix of one of their favorite foods and saying “here you go, now make it.” The box mixes typically don’t require more than a handful of ingredients, are inexpensive, don’t have complex ingredients or required appliances, and are fairly easy to make.

Keyword there being “should.”

A year or two ago, I gave the kids a box of brownie mix for them to make. Well, they mis-read one of the ingredient amounts (a portion of a cup) and ended up with the greasiest brownies known to mankind.

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While we were all bummed that we wouldn’t be enjoying brownies after dinner that night, I was actually happy they made a mistake because they learned so much from their mistake.

From that point on, they’ve always double-checked any ingredients or measurements they’re unsure about. The brownies have been delicious ever since!

Math Concepts You Can Teach in the Kitchen

By now, you should realize that cooking in the kitchen isn’t just about creating delicious meals – it’s also a fantastic opportunity to sneak in some valuable math lessons. From measuring ingredients to cutting dough, your kitchen can transform into classroom filled with meaningful, memorable, and FUN lessons!

What math skills can the kids learn? Let’s chat, m’kay?

Measuring and Fractions

Ever noticed how many recipes require precise measurements? This is a golden opportunity to teach your kids about units of measurement and fractions.

When you ask your child to measure out two cups of flour or a half teaspoon of salt, you’re introducing them to:

  • Different units of measurement (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons)
  • Basic fractions (halves, thirds, and quarters)
  • Concepts of volume and conversion between different units

For example, explaining that 4 tablespoons equal a quarter cup helps kids understand how fractions work in real-life settings. Next time you’re baking cookies, let your kids measure the sugar and explain how fractions are part of the process.

cutting out sugar cookies
Not only will the kids be learning, but they’ll be making wonderful memories by cooking and baking with you!

I also have to add – there is a difference between baking and cooking. With cooking, I tell my kids that recipes are a guide for the final product. If they want to add more garlic or omit ground pepper, for example, they’re more than welcome to do so.

In our home, we say “there’s no such thing as too much garlic.” Anyone else?

With baking, though? Baking is a science! Measurements must be as accurate as possible because all the ingredients rely upon one another for an amazingly delicious finished product.

Addition and Subtraction

Simple recipes often require adding or subtracting ingredients, which can be a smooth way to practice basic math. Imagine you’re making a fruit salad with your child, for example. You have three apples and two bananas. Ask them to count the fruits together:

  • “How many fruits do we have in total?”

Or, you might need to adjust the recipe. If the recipe calls for 10 strawberries but you only have 7, ask:

  • “How many more strawberries do we need?”

These small calculations help solidify their understanding of basic addition and subtraction in a fun and engaging way.

young child making pigs in a blanket
Pigs-in-a-Blanket = yum and a SUPER easy beginning recipe!

Multiplication and Division

Multiplication and division may sound complex, but they’re super easy to teach in the kitchen. Cooking often involves operations like doubling a recipe or dividing portions, making these concepts more easier to understand because kids get to see and have a hands-on experience with the measurements increasing & decreasing!

  1. Doubling a Recipe: If a cake recipe calls for 1 cup of milk and we’re doubling the recipe, how much milk do we need? It’s 2 cups. Such exercises help kids grasp the concept of multiplication. They’ll be able to multiply without even realizing it!
  2. Dividing Dough: Suppose you’re making bread and you need to divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Ask your child how to portion it out, making sure each part is equal. This teaches the division in a practical, hands-on manner. (psssst….you halve the main portion, split those in half, and then split those in half! You could even use a kitchen scale to include even more accuracy and a bit of learning about weight measurements)

In our home, I’m often making multiple batches of recipes because I’m either trying to work smarter (& not harder) or because we need to use up a large quantity of an ingredient quickly.

rolling out cookie dough

Need some recipes to try with multiplying ingredients? These are some of our favorites that we always make in multiple batches:

  • Perfect Every Time Cut Out Cookies: I’ve been making this recipe at least 10 years, they’re that good. I omit the almond extract and use all vanilla extract, but they are a staple when making Christmas cookies every year!
  • Zucchini Bread: Every year we plant a ton of zucchini plants so, every year we end up making a ton of zucchini bread. We stock up the freezer and pull out a loaf for breakfast every now and then.
  • Refrigerator Pickles: We plant too many cucumber plants, too! My oldest loves super-garlic-y dill pickles, so he especially looks forward to making multiple batches of refrigerator pickles every summer!
  • Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread: We’re basic, so we love all things pumpkin lol! This recipe has lots of spice and has become a recipe we look forward to making every fall. This recipe also freezes well.
  • Good Old-Fashioned Pancakes: Pancakes take a bit of time to cook so, if we’re gonna make ’em, we’re making a lot of ’em (surprise – they freeze well, too!).

These activities allow kids to practice multiplication and division, making math less intimidating and more integrated into daily life.

Plus, making multiple batches of a delicious treat is way more fun than practicing multiplication facts with *yawn* flash cards right?!

Geometry and Shapes

Cooking and baking offer an array of opportunities to explore geometry and shapes. Cutting vegetables, arranging food on a plate, or even making cookies can be educational.

two boys showing off the stuffed chicken recipe they just made together
This spinach and cheese-stuffed chicken was delicious! I’m so proud of how much they’ve progressed in the kitchen!
  • Cutting Cookies: Use cookie cutters in different shapes—circles, squares, stars—and talk about each shape. Ask questions like, “How many sides does this star have?” Have them state the difference between the square and rectangle cookies!
  • Arranging Food: Create patterns or shapes with food items. Arrange sliced carrots into a circle or bell peppers into a square, so they can see and understand geometric concepts visually.
  • Slicing Pizza: When cutting pizza, discuss the angles and how you can divide it into equal parts. It’s a delicious way to think about geometry!

By involving them in these activities, you help them see that math is all around us…even in the food we eat! The kids will start to recognize shapes and geometric principles in everyday items.

Cooking together not only enhances your relationship, but also turns math into a fun, practical, and approachable subject.

Next time you’re in the kitchen, remember: every ingredient, every measurement, and every slice can be a step towards making math “click” for your kids!

young child's hands shaping a dough on a wood countertop

Fun and Engaging Math – Specific Cooking Activities

We’ve gone over the basics of what sort of math lessons the kids could be learning in the kitchen. Now, I’m going to take it a step further by sharing some specific kitchen activities you can do with the kids!

Pizza Party: Geometry and Division

What could be more exciting than making your own pizza? This activity not only fills tummies, but also teaches kids about geometry and division.

If you’re a child of the 90s, this could also be a nice way to introduce the kids to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…I’m just sayin’.

First, let your child help with rolling out the dough. As they work through the process, discuss shapes:

  • The dough is initially a rounded ball (sphere).
  • Rolling it out makes it into a flat circle.
making homemade colorful pasta

Once the pizza base is ready, it’s time for toppings. Spread the sauce, sprinkle cheese, and add favorite toppings.

Does everyone in the family want pepperoni on their pizza? Maybe only half the pizza gets pepperoni!

Maybe one person, out of 4, wants extra pepperoni? Add extra pepperoni to 1/4 of the pizza!

After baking, the pizza offers a perfect way to explore geometry and division:

  • Compare and discuss different ways to cut the pizza (slices or squares).
  • For round pizzas, cut them into halves, quarters, and eighths. Discuss the angles formed by each slice.
  • If you’re making personal-sized pizzas, ask, “What if we divide this mini pizza into 3 equal parts?”

Seeing how circles are divided into equal parts helps kids visualize fractions and understand basic geometry.

Then, dig in and enjoy the delicious pizza you just made as a family!

a homemade pizza
Here’s one of our homemade pizzas!

Smoothie Math: Ratios and Proportions

Making smoothies can be a (literally) refreshing way to introduce kids to ratios and proportions.

Start by gathering all the ingredients. This fruit smoothie only has 3 ingredients and would serve as the perfect introduction to easy smoothie making! Talk to your child about the ingredients and how each part of the smoothie is important for the final taste.

Explain ratios using the ingredients:

  • If the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of yogurt and 1 cups of fruit, the ratio of fruit to yogurt is 2:1.

As you blend, modify the amounts and ask:

  • “What happens if we double the strawberries? What is the new ratio?”
  • “If we want to make enough for four people instead of two, how much of each ingredient will we need?”

Discuss how changing one ingredient impacts the whole smoothie. Then, add some science to your smoothie lesson by making some educated guesses about what could happen if you add certain ingredients.

This simple activity helps kids understand how ratios work and how proportions affect the outcome, making math practical and fun.

  • “What might happen if we add a tablespoon of ground flax seed to the smoothie?”
  • “What do you think will happen if we double the amount of fruit, but keep the amount of yogurt and ice the same?”
two kids putting a tray of cookies into an oven

Tips for Parents to Make Math-Cooking Lessons Effective

Teaching math through cooking can be a delightful and educational experience for both parents and kids. Here are some tips to ensure these math-cooking lessons are effective and enjoyable for everyone involved.

Involve Kids in the Planning

Getting kids invested in the cooking process starts with the planning stage. By allowing them to choose recipes and plan the activities, you’ll spark their interest and make them feel included.

  1. Recipe Selection: Let your child browse through cookbooks or websites to pick a recipe they find exciting. Whether it’s baking cookies or making homemade pizza, their involvement in choosing the dish sets a positive tone. My kids LOVE to watch cooking videos on TikTok with me. Not only does that help get them excited for making a new dish, but seeing the process ahead of time can help to alleviate any anxiety trying a new recipe could bring up.
  2. Grocery Lists: As you prepare for grocery shopping, ask your child to help create the shopping list. Use this opportunity to introduce them to categories like produce, dairy, and baking supplies. Take it a step further by teaching the kids about unit pricing, how to calculate sale prices, how to look for expiration dates, and nutritional information!
  3. Meal Planning: Encourage them to plan the cooking schedule. Should you bake on a weekend morning or after a weekday after they’ve completed all their lessons? This helps them understand time management and scheduling.

By involving the kids in the planning, they become more engaged and excited about the math lessons that naturally occur during cooking.

parent and child cooking in the kitchen

Be Patient and Positive

Cooking with kids can sometimes be messy and slower than doing it alone, but it’s important to maintain patience and a positive attitude.

I know. That can totally be difficult but, I promise, it’s worth it! Doing so creates a welcoming learning environment where the kids can feel safe to learn and make mistakes.

Isn’t that the type of setting you’d like to have for yourself when learning a new skill?

  • Encouragement: Celebrate small victories. If your child accurately measures flour or successfully cracks an egg, offer praise. Positive reinforcement boosts their confidence and encourages them to learn more!
  • Patience: Understand that it might take longer for kids to grasp concepts or complete tasks. Instead of rushing, guide them through the steps patiently.
  • Mistake Management: Mistakes are a part of learning. If your child spills ingredients or mis-measures, use it as a learning moment rather than a setback. Ask, “What can we do differently next time?”

By being patient and maintaining a positive approach, you’ll foster a supportive learning environment where your child can thrive in the kitchen and beyond!

family cooking on a cooktop

Use Visual Aids and Tools

Visual aids can make abstract math concepts more tangible and easier to understand. Here are a few tools that can enhance math-cooking lessons:

  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Use measuring cups and spoons with clear markings to teach about different units. Show how many teaspoons make a tablespoon or how many cups fit in a quart.
  • Charts and Diagrams: Utilize a conversion chart that shows common kitchen measurements! Hang it up in the kitchen for quick reference. Diagrams on portion sizes and fractions can also be very helpful.
  • Scales and Timers: Digital kitchen scales can teach kids about weight and precision. Timers help them understand the passage of time and how it relates to cooking processes.

Incorporating these visual aids makes math concepts more concrete, helping kids understand and remember them better.

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Additional Resources

Exploring math through cooking can be both exciting and educational. To help you & the kids to have the best experience possible, here are some additional resources that can make your math-cooking activities even more meaningful, memorable, & fun!

parent and child cracking eggs to make a dough

Books and Online Resources

When it comes to integrating math with cooking, there’s a wealth of books and online resources available. These can provide you with fresh ideas, detailed activities, and more structured lesson plans to keep learning fun.

  1. Books to Check Out:
  2. Online Resources:
    • Khan Academy: Offers a variety of math resources that can align with cooking activities. Check out their measurement and fractions modules.
    • PBS Kids: Features fun, educational games that blend cooking with math concepts, such as measuring ingredients and calculating cooking times.
  3. Educational Cooking Apps:
    • Kitchen Stories: This app not only offers step-by-step recipes but also highlights measurements and conversions, making it a great tool for teaching math concepts.
    • SideChef: Known for its user-friendly interface, SideChef provides recipe instructions with easy-to-follow measurements and timers—ideal for teaching fractions and time management.
    • Yummly: Apart from offering a vast library of recipes, Yummly allows you to adjust serving sizes, which is perfect for practicing multiplication and division.
    • AllRecipes: A personal favorite of mine, AllRecipes features recipes submitted by visitors. It’s always interested to scroll through the reviews to see the changes people have made to the recipe. This could be a great way to start a discussion on the “what ifs” of changing recipe ingredients and measurements.
  4. Kitchen Tools:
    • Measuring Cups and Spoons with Clear Markings: Tools that show different units of measurement help children understand volume and conversion. Look for ones that are color-coded for an added visual aid.
    • Digital Kitchen Scales: Using scales can teach kids about weight and precision. It can also be a fun way to introduce concepts like grams and ounces.
    • Timers and Stopwatches: These are great for helping children grasp the concept of time. Timing how long it takes for something to bake or boil can make math feel more real and immediate.
  5. Streaming Suggestions:
    • Food Network Shows: There are SO MANY amazing cooking shows on Food Network. Let the kids look through the listings and see what catches their interest!
    • Nailed It!: Teach the kids that it’s ok if their cooking creations don’t turn out picture perfect!
    • Julia Child: Watch her original shows, watch the movies, whatever…Julia Child was a gift to the culinary world and I totally believe all that step foot in the kitchen should watch at least one of her shows.
family cooking together while a man helps a child cut a carrot with a knife

I grew up watching Jacque Pepin, Mary Ann Esposito, America’s Test Kitchen, and Julia Child on Saturday mornings. I’ve never really been one for cartoons (I’m thinking it’s because I often rely on reading lips and…cartoon characters aren’t easy to lip read), so I’d watch the chefs on PBS for as long as I could. I credit them with the cooking skills I have today.

Get in the Kitchen!

From measuring ingredients to exploring fractions and geometry, each cooking experience brings math to life in a fun and engaging way! Before long, the kids will be the ones in charge of making dinner!

Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

As a self-professed foodie myself, I’d love to hear about your kitchen adventures with the kids! Share your stories in That Homeschool Family Hangout or leave a comment below!

Until next time, stay safe and enjoy quality time with your family (in the kitchen!)

- Elizabeth (and the kids. and the husband. even the dog.)

Elizabeth Dukart is a proud Georgia-based born and raised Jersey Girl, wife, and mom of 2 human boys & 1 canine boy.

Created in 2021, Elizabeth owns and publishes That Homeschool Family: a free resource for homeschooling parents and beyond! A seasoned blogger, Elizabeth previously published a popular location-specific family resource blog, but decided to “Pivot!” her blogging focus after she started homeschooling her two boys in 2020. In addition to this blog, you can follow Elizabeth’s homeschooling and family adventures on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She can also be found in her Facebook Group: That Homeschool Family Hangout.

When she’s not busy taking over the world or homeschooling, Elizabeth can be found listening to music (especially The Beatles & Harry Styles!), being silly with her boys, watching movies with family, shopping, or traveling!

Have a question or want to work with Elizabeth? Send her an email!

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