Thursday, June 2, 2011

More than Pizza and Brownies

Okay...I can admit it...I have food issues....a lot of people do these days. It seems that the 'go to' analogy for teaching fraction concepts is always food related. As I was going through my book collection and preparing my blog entries about fractions I realized that the majority of the stories we use have the characters portioning out food in fair shares. Given that obesity is a serious health issue in our culture, perhaps we educators we should be sensitive to the messages we send to children. For example, through our literature selections we can teach that fractions are more than just pizza, pies and brownies.

Toward that end, here are a few books that use non-food models to convey fraction concepts:

In Jump, Kangaroo, Jump Kangaroo and his friends separate into various groups to compete in Field Day exercises.

Eight messy bunkmates win the prize for the cleanest cabin in the funny fraction tale A Limpiar El Campamento! (Clean-Sweep Campers).

Readers of Polar Bear Math learn about fractions following the care of two baby polar bears born in a zoo.

In Go Fractions! the soccer coach and math teacher names his team fractions and the player numbers on each uniform are fractions. The team does share a food item in this story, but since the food is a healthy choice we'll include the title in this list.

Let's talk
I'd like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about using food models to teach fraction concepts? What about eating scenarios when teaching problem-solving strategies? It has been a while since I have been a classroom teacher, so I may be off-base. I want to know your opinion. Post a comment to this post by Monday, June 6, 2011 and you'll be in a drawing for a copy of Learning Algebra with Pizza by Dawn McMillen. (Yes, my attempt at irony!)

Here are the giveaway rules:

1. Leave one comment on this post anytime between now and Monday, June 6, 2011 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time. You are limited to one entry. The contest is limited to US residents only.

2. For this contest, I will pick one winner at random from the comments section of this post. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. The Random Integer Generator at will be used to pick the number of the winner.

3. The contest winner will be posted by Wednesday, June 8th. The winner will have one week to email me to claim their prize.


  1. The book Go Fractions! reminds me of baseball player Eddie Gaedel. He was just 3'7" tall, and he played just one game for the St. Louis Browns in 1951. He had just one at-bat, and of course he was walked because the opposing pitcher couldn't hit his strike zone!

    Gaedel's uniform number was 1/8.

    As for using food contexts for teaching fractions... I've got no problem with it, as long as it's part of a well-rounded education. In addition to fraction lessons with pizza, cake, and cookies, the curriculum should also teach kids about nutrition, health, decision making, moderation and fitness. My sons eat cake and pizza, but they also know that it's a special treat and that we're going to have veggies with dinner every night and our "dessert" is going to be fruits.

  2. I don't have a problem with using food for helping to teach the concept of fractions. I think food lends itself to fractions especially when sharing food with others and when cooking. As a parent it opens the door to talking about healthy food vs. junk food. Although, I wouldn't mind a book that talked about sharing toys as a way to teach would also be a book that could be used to help a child that struggles sharing toys and/or taking turns.

  3. In a classroom I think using food at all these days can be dangerous there are so many food allergies. I agree pretty much right on with Michelle, using food opens up other teaching possibilities, but if you are in a classroom with other kids be careful, if you are home...the possibilities are endless!

  4. I think using food and cooking to teach fractions is more an attempt at helping kids see how "math" can be found in every day situations and experiences. The best thing would be to be selective about which foods are being used to teach these concepts. Why can't we make carob brownies (I've never had them, for the record)? Or a whole wheat pizza? Fun, educational, AND healthy!

    That's my two cents. :D

  5. The need for food is something that all human beings share so a child could easily come to the conclusion that mathematics is equally necessary. However, as with most good things, moderation is the key. A school teacher might need to be extra sensitive to the obesity/allergy issues due to the make-up of the classroom. A homeschooling parent would be attuned to the needs of the children and would pick out books to strengthen the understanding of concepts while being careful to avoid other issues. So, I do not have a problem with using food to teach/reinforce fraction concepts because it works.

  6. I think food lends itself best to teaching fractions, but that doesn't mean we only need to use unhealthy food. We can cut a banana in thirds, cut apples In fourths, melons in eights, etc. We also have used the Laughing Cow cheese that comes in a round case and is in triangles to discuss fractions with my little ones.