Sugar and spice and a dash of math

Get family traditions—and math skills—cooking. 


30 minutes

Learning Stages

Cooking together in the kitchen is a great way to teach kids about family traditions—and to create new ones.  It’s also a fun and practical learning activity, which incorporates math (counting, fractions, measuring), language (naming and comparing) and science (melting, evaporation, dissolving).

Here are a few simple ways to bake math practice into your cooking time, while sharing important traditions with your child.

Secret ingredient: math

Getting your children involved in the prep work helps them feel like important contributors to the process, while stealthily improving their mathematical and quantitative skills.

As you cook, ask your child to hand you ingredients. For example, if you are making mashed potatoes, you might ask your child to place 5 potatoes in a bowl for you. Show them the numbers and fractions on your measuring cup, and ask them to help you measure 1 cup of milk or ½ cup of cream.

You can also sneak a little addition and subtraction into the mix. For example, you might ask for 40 mini-marshmallows to put on top of your sweet potato casserole, and then say, “Oops! I think that’s too many. I’d like to use 35 instead. How many should we remove from the bowl so we have 35?”

Estimation is also a fun game that works for all sorts of recipes. How big of a pot will we need for these potatoes? How many cookies can we fit on this baking sheet?

Be sure that everyone’s hands are washed, and be generous with praise. Cooking together will create wonderful holiday memories that you’ll both carry with you for years to come.