Fractions Are a Piece of Cake

Mathematics and the Arts

Hands up for Hands-on

Education circles have made great strides in creating hands-on learning experiences for kids.  STEM challenges, math manipulatives, and makers stations are just some ways our schools have transformed to embrace different learning styles. At the same time, though, the practical and fine arts have lost their footing in priority, sometimes being cut all together.

However, these labor intensive fields are the true core to hands-on learning.  Science, mathematics, problem solving, and engineering are all practiced through the traditional arts courses.  The key really is to incorporate the disciplines.  A true liberal arts education has the benefit of covering every discipline so that connection can be made and all parts of the brain exercised.

How Many Cooks in the Kitchen?

Do you know how to cook or bake?  How did you learn? Cooking is a science and an art.  It incorporates the principles of STEM while lending itself to creative exploration.  A life skill, cooking also teaches self confidence and independence. Let’s look at three reasons why cooking may be the perfect addition to your STEM project repertoire.

Struggling with Fractions? Bake a Cake!

Fractions are one of those “Why do we have to learn this?” topics for many children. It can be hard to grasp that the bigger the bottom number the small the fraction.  However, knowledge of fraction is essential to baking. Not only that, but using measuring spoons and cups give a hands-on, visual lesson in what each fraction actually means.

Once your students have mastered reading the fractions and choosing the correct tool to measure them, up the anty.  What if you double the recipe? How about cut in half?  What if you convert all the measurements into 16ths?  A simple cake recipe becomes a lesson in multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction of fractions without the endless stacks of worksheets.  Best yet, at the end of the lesson, there is sweet victory to share if the calculations are correct. Now that is motivation to learn!

Order Operations Pizzas

Can you follow a recipe? Doing things in the correct order and quantities is essential for recipes to work.  The first time I made chocolate chip cookies, I just dumped all the ingredients in the mixer and baked. What came out of the oven tasted good, but was nothing like cookies. Order and procedure are important.

If you are trying to teach order of operations and getting moans and groans that it shouldn’t matter, make a pizza together as a class.  First give the students ingredients and measurements but no written recipe and ask them to make pizza dough. This can be done in small groups.  A recipe can easily be cut down to not waste so many ingredients and reduce the risk of huge messes from flour.

After their “dough” has been created ask them what they think about how well it would make a pizza.  Segue to reason to follow order.  Demonstrate how the same ingredients when combined in the correct order and procedure create a perfect crust.

Once the dough is ready; stretch, top, and bake. Serve up some lunch with a side of lessons.

Master Chef and the Secret Ingredient

As much as baking is a science, cooking is a scientific art.  While there are certain procedures and rules to follow, there is also more room for creativity.  Have you ever held a cook off?  What would students do if they were given 5 secret ingredients and had to make snack?

Cooking experiments are part hypothesis and part ingenious creativity. Have an easy recipe to make in class–what if one of the ingredients is missing and five other choices are in their place?  There’s garlic powder, all spice, black pepper, paprika, and sage on the shelf, what to do?  If you are making banana bread, all spice is the best option, but for chili it may be paprika.

How will they choose which one to pick.  Why does that one fit what is being made?  Hypothesis, experimentation, conclusion! Creatively solving problems in cooking can lead to better building of bridges later.  Life skills and STEM go hand in hand.

What kind of lesson can you cook up today?

 

 

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Where in the World? Building Map Skills

Globetrotting on a Map

Our planet is so vast. From mile high peaks to low lying islands, arctic tundra to arid rain forests.  The beauty and splendor is amazing.  This breathtaking canvas is occupied by 7.6 billion people and organized by the invisible borderlines of 195 countries. How many could you find on an unlabelled map?

Exploring a map or atlas is an adventure in itself.  The different names, the topography, the climates and animal habitats all weave a tapestry like none other.  As One Planet, One People, we have so much in common but, also so much to share that makes us each unique.  Understanding our world begins with understanding our globe!

Why Learn Map Skills?

With the advent of GPS our reliance on technology has decreased our perceived need to learn how to read a map.  Moreover, not only are we not versed in how to uses maps, but are less likely to even encounter one.

Map skills are still an important ingredient to understanding your surroundings and the world at large.  When listening to the news, our knowledge of geography helps us better understand where items of interest are happening and how they could effect other parts of the world.

How to Build Better Map Skills

The easiest way to learn more about maps of the world is to spend time exploring them.  Hear a geographic name you don’t recognize?  Look it up!  Not sure which countries border an area in conflict? Pull out an atlas and find out.

Here are four other projects to build map skills for young and old:

  1.  Google up some geography. While technology has made us less able to self-orient, it has also opened doors to experiencing geography like never before. Instead of just a static drawing or photograph in a book, interactive maps, such as Google Earth, brings the maps to life.  Spending time exploring and “voyaging” via Google Earth you can become a globetrotter right from your living room. There are numerous projects online to enhance your learning.
  2. Build the world by hand! Making a globe by hand is a great way to gain an understanding of where places are and how they relate to each other.  Globes can be made from pumpkins, paper mache, styrofoam balls, or printable that are assembled.
  3. Map what you read. Find locations mentioned in the books, and news that you read.  Learn more about the area around the point you discovered.  Get a wall map and mark each of these spots to keep track of your reading travel.
  4. Play a game. Playing games, both board games and video games, that include travel is a fun and easy way to learn more geography. Puzzles, as well, turning playing into learning. Try some of these:

Where will you explore today?

 

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