Our youngest daughter is a budding cook and loves making cookies and cakes. She has a page-a-day calendar with recipes for cookies on. Here's one batch she made last week:
For the Cookies:
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of 3 lemons
1 1/2 cups plain flour
For the Filling:
4 tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
grated zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1/2 lemon
Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and lemon zest together until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and cornflour together and stir into the creamed mixture. Roll into balls and press flat on a baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Allow to cool.
To make the filling, beat the butter and sugar together with the lemon zest and juice until light and fluffy. Spread the filling onto the flat side of one cookie, then put another cookie on top and sandwich together.
Baking as a way to practice numeracy skills
Baking is a great way for kids to practice a number of skills - not just the skill of baking!
Measurements are well practised as ingredients are weighed etc. Depending on the unit of measurement, sometimes fractions are sometimes practiced - as they are here, when things are measured in cups, and half cups etc. This is something that can come up on the Naplan test in Grade 3 too. For example - here is a question I found on one of the past papers:
Thomas needs 3 cups of flour to make a cake.
He only measures 1/2 cup at a time.
How many 1/2 cups of flour will he need?
1 2 3 or 6 ?
When a student is faced with a question like this, of course they are being tested on their knowledge of basic fractions, but if they have had the real life experience of measuring flour using half cups for a recipe, then the question becomes so much more familiar and so, easier.
We have a large and varied selection of recipes that the girls can bake from - with measurements in cups, grams and ounces, depending on where the recipes come from ! It is great for the kids to be exposed to all these different measurements and to also be able to understand how they relate to each other. Many recipes have 2 different measurements shown, so the kids get used to seeing for example 100g (4 oz), and so gradually learn to convert between different units of measurement.
The more kids bake and weigh ingredients, the better they become at estimating weights. It is not only important that kids can read and use units of measurements, but also that they have a rough idea of what, for example 1 kg might feel like.
Another way of practising this is by helping at the shops when buying say - a bag of sugar, and feel the weight of it when they put it in the basket. Or perhaps they know their own weight and so then have a reference point to compare other things to.
Estimating real weights and lengths etc is something else that may appear on the Naplan test, where the students may have to choose the most sensible or likely option from the answers as to what something might weigh or measure.
Here is another example of a question from a past paper:
Which of these is the closest to the length of a real shoe?
To answer this question, students need to understand what 1cm is actually like and be able to relate this to real life objects. I remember always using my 'big' 30cm ruler at school to compare things to when estimating lengths. It's helpful for kids to have a point of reference like this to refer to - something that they can think, "Is this object longer or shorter than my 30cm ruler?"; thus making it easier to estimate the length of something they don't know.
Real life is often the best practice
I hope these examples show that written tests not only test the student's knowledge of facts - but can be a measure of their understanding of some basic things they encounter in real life.
Sometimes the best practice for basic numeracy and literacy skills for young kids is doing something 'real' - like baking!
So - take a look in your recipe books, and see what tasty delights your kids could bake with you, for some 'homework' today!