An easy way to help children learn math? Get them in the kitchen mixing up variable pizza pi, says Ann McCallum, a Maryland mom, math teacher and author of "Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds."

Whimsical illustrations fill the slim volume that features six recipes keyed to, among other concepts, fractions, triangles (remember isosceles?) and probability.

Steer clear of making the recipes into lessons, she cautions: "That takes all the spontaneity and fun out of it. You're just trying to build a love of math and kind of an inquisitiveness so kids will not be so intimidated."

If you've used Cheerios to teach addition or a stick of butter to teach fractions, McCallum takes it to the next step, mixing math words with stories about famous figures like Italian math guy Fibonacci, who came up with a sequence that adds the first two numbers to get the next one (i.e., 112358 ...).

McCallum uses kebab sticks and fruit pieces for Fibonacci snack sticks: "Put one strawberry and one slice of banana. Then two grapes. Then three pieces of kiwi ... and you've modeled the Fibonacci sequence. It's a stepping off point for getting into patterning and sequencing."

McCallum's efforts include making meatballs take the drudgery out of learning multiplication by arranging a dozen meatballs on a plate (3 by 4, or 2 by 6). "It's much better if you can have something tangible, something visual ... something edible."

Fraction Chips

Small flour tortillas

Olive oil

Taco seasoning

Spread a little olive oil over one side of a tortilla; sprinkle with seasoning. With a grown-up's help, heat a skillet over medium heat; cook tortilla with olive oil side down, 30 seconds. Flip tortilla; cook other side, 30 seconds. Transfer tortilla with a spatula to a cutting board.

Cook remaining tortillas. Again with supervision, cut one tortilla in half, another into thirds, another into fourths and another into eighths. Now you have several sets of fraction pieces or chips.

Using the chips, how many different ways can you serve everyone one half of a tortilla? For example, you could take 3 of 6 pieces. Or you can make half a serving by putting together 6 of 12 pieces.

 

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