The Great Math Pancake Feast

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Use the favorite meal of the day to teach about bar graphs, tally marks, estimation, number sense, fractions, and even division!

There is not much that is more motivating than pancakes.  C'mon....tell me I am not the only one.  All I have to do is hear the word "pancakes" and I've dropped my to-do list for the next hour.  

My kids have inherited this "pancake gene" from me, though I am guessing that this gene is not isolated to just my family.

We homeschool and my kids really do enjoy their math workbooks, but every now and then, I can tell they are needing a change of pace.  Today was that day in my house.  

I whipped up a large batch (42 to be exact) of small pancakes with the help of my girls.

 The little one helped pour and mix, while the older girls were told to measure 4 Cups of mix with a 1/2 Cup measuring cup. Yes, this request was purposeful.  

 They had to do the math to find out how many 1/2 cups equaled 4 whole cups. When all the pancakes were finished, I placed a mound of them on the breakfast table.  By each place was the usual: a plate, a glass of water,  a napkin or 100, a fork and knife, and an index card and pencil.  Wait!  What?!  Paper and pencil?  Oh, ok....not everything was normal this morning.  

When my girls got to the table, they were ecstatic and ready to dig right in!  I disappointed them when I told them to wait, but then I saw a slow grin creep onto the face of my middle child as I began to explain the fun we were about to have with our pancakes.  

"This is going to be fun!" she said, nodding.

First, we counted all the pancakes.  We counted in unison, and my 9-year-old daughter was getting impatient, but it is so important for my 3-year-old to get that counting practice.  

I instructed them to place the number 42 at the top of their index card.

Then, they estimated how many of those pancakes they were going to devour.

(At this time, it is important that the kids know eating pancakes is NOT a race or a contest.  Their pancake quota is a unique number just for them, and they were told to not skew the results by stuffing their bellies unnecessarily full.)  

Then, each child made a tally mark for each pancake they ate.


Tally marks have never been so much fun, folks!  

We made many other observations as we ate.  Did everyone put peanut butter on their pancakes?  Did everyone use powdered sugar?  How about syrup?  

Then, as they finished their breakfast, I wrote some incomplete statements on our white board: 

After we finished cleaning the kitchen, we came together in a circle and my 7-year-old added up all the tally marks.  She added the totals together and placed the answer in the appropriate spot.  My other daughter wrote the fraction of eaters who used peanut butter, powdered sugar, and syrup.  

Then, I asked her how many pancakes each person would get if 6 people came to eat at our house and each received an equal amount of pancakes.  The picture below shows how she figured out the answer.  She was excited to find out that she had just figured out a division problem!  

This fun activity can include people of all ages.  Imagine keeping tabs on several pancake breakfasts and then being able to predict and forecast future breakfasts using statistics! 

Afterwards, we completed bar graphs, showing the results of our pancake feast.  Remember when I said that this pancake eating stuff is not a contest?  Hmm hmm.  My kids are a wee bit competitive.  :o)

This activity is ideal for homeschool families, classrooms (you could change it to carrot sticks or apple slices with/without dip, etc.), and a great activity to do during Summer vacation.  What a fun and personable way to help your kids understand math and it's place in this world.

One more thing:  I understand how much gluten affects individual these days.  If you are gluten-free, consider trying this amazing recipe I stumbled upon last year.  My husband actually likes it better than our Non-GF recipe.  

What about you? How else would you incorporate math into this fun pancake activity?