Make Your Kitchen a Classroom

April 29, 2020, 1:47 pm | Ruth Litchfield, Sarah Francis

Child does schoolwork in kitchen with parent by Africa Studio/, Iowa -- As Iowa schools remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, families continue to have a lot of time together at home – including more time in the kitchen. Parents who are looking for ways to make learning at home fun for their kids should consider making the kitchen a classroom, say nutrition and wellness state specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

According to Ruth Litchfield and Sarah Francis, parents can use the time spent preparing food to help their children build math skills and learn about social studies.

“We typically think of nutrition labels as a resource to guide our food choices. However, they can also be used to show how basic math skills are used for real-life,” Litchfield said.

The math skills that could be taught would depend on the child’s grade level and types of skills desired – for example, addition, multiplication, fractions or percentages. For suggestions on math topics that are grade-appropriate, visit IXL Math and Khan Academy.

“You can use the nutrition label to create math-based word problems,” said Francis. “For example, if you ate one cup of the ice cream, what percentage of the recommended daily fat content would be consumed? To answer that question, your child would need to determine how many servings were in the one cup to determine how much fat and what percent of the Daily Value had been consumed.”

Examples of math activities using nutrition labels are available from

“Remember, nutrition labels include information for one serving,” Litchfield said.  “Ask your child to measure out one serving according to the package label. Is the serving what the average person would eat? If the serving size is smaller than what the average person would normally eat, ask your child to calculate what two or three servings would provide nutritionally, and what those look like. Not only are you teaching math skills, but also portion sizes!”

Francis said recipes are a good way to teach fractions.  

“Children can learn how one-half cup relates to one cup; it is easy to visualize and can make learning fractions a snap,” Francis said.

Litchfield and Francis said examples of using math in the kitchen can be found on YouTube, including “Kitchen Math” and “Math in the Kitchen.”

“Finally, sprinkle in a bit of social studies,” Litchfield said. “Ask your child to answer simple questions, such as, where do pasta and pizza come from? Where did burritos and tacos originate from? Find these countries and cultures on a world map. What is unique about that culture? What foods are traditional for that culture? How are those foods connected to that culture? What is the difference between a burrito, enchilada, taco, tostada and quesadilla?”

The companies and videos mentioned in this release are for example only. No endorsement is intended.


Photo credit: Africa Studio/

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