Cooking up Fractions - Grades 1 - 4
Updated: Apr 21
Cooking, planning and serving meals are all great ways to connect with your kids and make learning about fractions fun and meaningful.
In this post I share two examples of how you can use recipes to promote fraction learning at home.
The approaches I describe are suitable for young children in grades 1-3 and for older children who are missing some key understandings about fractions.
Here's a couple of notes that apply to both recipes:
In the Ontario curriculum, children aren’t expected to be able to read fractions in numeric form (1/2, 1/4) until grade 4. If you are wondering why, think about how children learn about whole numbers such as one, three and ten. First they learn them orally as you count or point to objects and say things like "two dogs". Only much later do they learn to recognize the symbols for the numbers (1, 3, 10). The same is true for fractions. So don't focus on the symbols too early. In fact, it might be best just to read the recipe to your child.
·Cooks tend to call fourths “quarters”. When your child understands the meaning of quarters, introduce the word “fourths” as well. They need to know both names for this fraction.
Let's get started!
Consider doing a little investigation with the measuring tools before tackling the first recipe.
Show your child the half, quarter and full cup measures. Encourage them to predict how many of each smaller measure fit in the whole cup. Give them some water or rice and let them explore. Talk with them about what they found out. Suggest that they draw a picture of what they found out that you can use when you are cooking.
Best Lemonade Ever:
Ingredients are listed below.
The whole recipe is found at AllRecipes.
· 1 3/4 cups white sugar
· 8 cups water
· 1 1/2 cups lemon juice
Suggestions for working with your child:
Pretend your ¾ cup measure is missing and just bring out the 1 cup, ½ cup and ¼ cup measures to make this recipe.
Ask your child to put the 8 cups of water in the pitcher.
Next, tell your child: “The recipe says we need to put one and a half cups of lemon juice in. What do you think that means?”
Listen to your child’s ideas. If needed, explain that it means one full cup and one half of a second cup.
After your child measures and adds the lemon, say: “The recipe says we need one and three quarter cups of sugar. What do you think that means?”
If needed, explain that it means one full cup and three quarters of a second cup.
Ask your child to put the full cup of sugar into the pitcher. Then ask: “How much do you think three quarters of a cup is?” If your child doesn’t know, tell them that three quarters means three one-quarter cups.
Point to the ¼ cup measure. Say: “We need to count three one quarter cups of sugar.”
As your child scoops out the ¼ cups of sugar, count with them like this: “one one-quarter, two one-quarters, three one-quarters – now we have ¾ of a cup of sugar”.
Stir and enjoy your lemonade!
Old Fashioned Easy Apple Crisp
Ingredients are listed below. The whole recipe is found at The Chunky Chef.
6 golden delicious apples, peeled and chopped (other varieties can be used, can also be sliced)
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced into small cubes
pinch of kosher salt
I chose this recipe next because it builds on the learning from the lemonade recipe. It still only uses halves and fourths but it also includes ingredients measured with measuring spoons.
Before tackling the recipe, take some time to explore the relationships between measuring spoons. Show your child the 1 teaspoon, 1/2 and 1/4 teaspoon measures. Encourage them to predict how many of each smaller measure fit in a whole teaspoon..
It will be more difficult to investigate predictions with the teaspoons because the amounts are small You may need to do this investigation with your child to get an accurate result. Fine grain salt works well.
Follow the recipe. Coach your child in the same way that you did when making lemonade.
Find your own kid-friendly recipes and keep cooking! Gradually introduce recipes with new fraction quantities.
Additional recipes you might want to check out:
The Best Homemade Playdough at Domestic Superhero
1 cup flour
1 cup water
2 tsp cream of tarter
1/3 cup salt. This recipe introduces the fraction 1/3.
1 TBS vegetable oil
gel food coloring
Easy Sugar Cookies at Sugar Spun Run
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar (200g)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract²
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (315g)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Simple Chocolate Chip Cookies at The Food Network
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter (room temp)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
One 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips
Ontario Ministry of Education . (2018). Fractions Across the Curriculum. Queen's printer for Ontario.
Empson, S., & Levy, L. (2011). Extending Children's Mathematics: Fractions and Decimals. Heinemann.