A guest post—with recipe!—by Ann McCallum, a pal of mine from the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC. Ann's latest book is Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds.
As a kid, I thought that math was bland—unappetizing worksheets and heaps of boring word problems. Those were the worst, the word problems: Disjointed scenarios that you had to sit with until you were done.
I fell in love with math after college. Not a case of love at first taste, it was more an awakening of the senses. A realization that there was pattern and meaning to all those seemingly random numbers. Like a well-made dish, the ingredients aligned so perfectly when I finally understood. The steps were meaningful, too—not a series of machinations to memorize, but a logical process of creating. With my new-found appetite for math, I knew I had to share.
Pairing food with math was a fluke, really. It started with a math project for my students (I was teaching 5th grade at the time). It was nearly winter break, and I had my students make mathematical gingerbread houses. I didn’t provide many instructions—just, you know, make one of those graham cracker houses glued together with icing and be prepared to talk about how you used math. The results were far richer than I had anticipated. Students shared innovations such as polygon windows and doors, candy tessellations, the perimeter of roofs, and the length of icing pathways. I was so excited, I went home and made multiplication meatballs! Okay, maybe not right away, but the idea was there. Food, I figured, was a perfect medium for getting kids to love math.
What followed was a series of yummy experiments: Estimation Cookies, Fibonacci Snack Sticks, Variable Pizza Pi . . . Fun, oh fun! Finally, here was a connection to some of math’s tough concepts, but with a delicious new twist. It made so much sense to learn math by using food.Eager to share this idea beyond my students, I sent a book proposal to an editor and was accepted—but not for a math cookbook. Instead, I was engaged to write “The Secret Life of Math” which is a history/project book about math for kids (I was allowed one recipe:
One of my favorite math authors, Theoni Pappas, says it best: “The joy of mathematics is that it is everywhere.” I’ll add to that: Even in cupcakes!Happy eating—happy math!
Recipe→ Common Denominator CupcakesThese math goodies have a common denominator. Before baking, place an Oreo cookie in each cupcake cup, and then spoon the dough on top. Bake, bite in, and work out approximately what fraction of the cupcake is the Oreo cookie.
What you need:
½ cups butter
1 ¼ cups white sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup rainbow sprinkles
Oreos (one for every muffin cup)
What you do:
1. Cream butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs.
2. Mix in flour, baking powder and baking soda, alternating with milk.
3. Stir in the colored sprinkles.
4. Grease a muffin tin (or use cupcake papers) and place one oreo cookie in every muffin cup. Pour dough on top so that each muffin cup is ¾ of the way full.
5. Bake for about 30 minutes in a 350° F oven.