Making Math

• Add two sets of stick pretzels. Write the equation (symbolic expression).

• Cut an apple into eight slices. Eat one slice and write the corresponding equation. Continue, reinforcing the subtraction concept.

• Place ten cookies on a plate; divide evenly among the people at the table. Discuss remainders, if necessary.

• Add to find the number of pints in a gallon. Multiply to find the number of pints in two, four, or six gallons.


How many jellybeans in a handful? Children learn estimation skills once they comprehend quantity. Introduced with amounts smaller than twenty, estimation skills build quickly to collections of one hundred and beyond. Familiar, appealing objects, ideal for beginning estimation work, create a framework for intermediate problem-solving strategies.

Making Math

• Estimate contents of a given package: baby carrots, radishes, raviolis, oranges, etc. Write the estimations of each family member. Count. Whose estimate was closest?

• Hand a child three baking potatoes and ask him to estimate the weight. Record the estimate. Weigh potatoes on a kitchen scale. Subtract to find the difference.


What child isn’t fascinated with tape measures, kitchen scales, and turkey basters? Fascinating tools make math memorable. Exploration and experimentation are integral components of a child’s first attempts at measurement, which begins with non-standard units—candy bars, saltine crackers, spoons, and Twizzlers—and inches toward standard units—inches, feet, and yards, as well as millimeters, centimeters, and meters. Measurement concepts include time (elapsed and actual), weight, capacity, and area.

Making Math

• Compare 1 pound of several items: 1 pound of rice, 1 pound of lima beans, 1 pound of potatoes, 1 pound of cream cheese. Discuss.

• Measure the square area of the kitchen table with saltine crackers.

• Bake and cook. Double and half recipes.

Place Value

Instruction for place value in a base ten number system begins when a child counts ten objects in a set, identifies a quantity of ten, and combines groups of ten to create larger sets. Real-life experiences with multiple sets of ten are a prerequisite for learning addition with carrying and subtraction with regrouping.

Making Math

• Beans, pasta, crackers, and small candies make excellent teaching tools. Place a handful on the table and help the child make groups of ten. Extras are placed in a separate set. The parent reinforces the concept by stating, “Make ten and count extras.” Together, parent and child count by tens and then add the extras.

Fractions, Decimals, and Percentages

The kitchen fosters opportunities for learning, practicing, and applying fraction, decimal, and percentage concepts. Exploration and part-whole vocabulary internalizes piece and portion skills. As children progress to the symbolic stage, reading fractions, decimals, and percentages, they easily associate parts and pieces to the numbers they represent.

Making Math

• Cut sandwiches into equal parts.

• Measure and prepare ingredients for a cherry pie. Bake, slice, and discuss in fractional terms.

• Describe a box of assorted popsicles in terms of which a portion of the box is represented by each flavor. Draw pictorial representation.

Mouth-watering math feeds a child’s natural curiosity. A learning laboratory, the kitchen provides a rich environment for children to measure and pour, divide and cut, estimate and portion. The kitchen, the heart of the home, invites learning, encourages sharing, and promotes thinking—a perfect place to be immersed in math with the ones we love.

Cheryl Bastian and her husband Mike have six children, aged 21 to 4, and anticipate the birth of another blessing in February 2011. Homeschooling since 1993, Cheryl organized and led a Central Florida support group, mentors current leaders, and remains active in the homeschooling community. As an author and speaker, Cheryl encourages parents to embrace the education and training of their children. Her books and resources are available at

Copyright, 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse®Magazine, Spring 2011.

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