Scott P. Raffone
This past year, it was obvious that the kids were having difficulty making a connection between mathematics and the real world. With twelve years of teaching experience, my perception is that the problem is getting progressively worse. I am trying to use my past experience as a middle school science teacher to help solidify mathematics topics with science support. Early in the school year, the students responded to a survey of their interests and many referred to eating and cooking. In light of this initial quantitative research I concluded that a unit about cooking and recipes would be an excellent way for students to make connections.
The question I keep hearing is, "Why do I need math?" This unit will focus on answering that question while teaching life skills along the way. The unit will focus on the teaching of mathematical concepts while using recipes and cooking. Students will connect science and math across the curriculum. Hopefully they will make a connection between everyday responsibilities and mathematics. It is difficult to find mathematical experiments for teachers and I hope to create a unit that can be utilized by many teachers throughout New Haven and other school districts.
For the past two years, I have enjoyed the opportunity of teaching in the New Haven Public School System. Last year, I taught middle school math at Wexler Grant Community School, a K-8 school. Approximately 96% of the students were minority. Many students had difficulty relating to complex topics. We spent lots of time with hands on projects to increase their confidence. I currently teach Pre-Algebra, Geometry and Algebra II at Metropolitan Business Academy. Many of my students struggle to connect mathematics to the real world.
Why do I need math? Metropolitan Business Academy is an inter-district magnet high school in New Haven. 90% of our population is minority. Our average SAT mathematics score is approximately 400, over 100 points less than the state average. We only have 32% of our sophomores proficient in mathematics on the Connecticut Aptitude Performance Test. Lots of our students are pursuing careers in Business. Many of these students have never scored well on any standardized tests. The intent of this unit is to have students make the connection between mathematics and the real world, which in turn will help them improve their poor standardized test scores.
Within the context of Algebra Lab we will answer important questions about ratios and proportions within recipes. Is ½ larger than ¼? What happens when you double a recipe? What happens to the measures of the ingredients when you only need ½ of a recipe? How is cooking time effected by the size of the pan?
We can offer a look at linear expressions. Students will predict what the temperature of boiling water will be after a long period of time given that in the early stages water increases in temperature linearly. We can also ask what the effects of salt in water to compare graphs. We can ask why Alfredo sauce and tomato sauce boil at different temperatures.
The area of mathematics in which we discovered the most examples that related to cooking was Geometry. Students compared volumes of unbaked items and volumes of baked items in a pan. They then compared the mass and volume of cooked baked goods versus uncooked baked goods (i.e. batter).
I am attempting to link more subject areas with mathematics. These lessons will utilize the science of cooking to explain and learn mathematics. Students will do hands-on activities to discover truths and use the scientific method or our problem solving rubric to explain our outcomes.
I decided to write my unit for the students that need them the most. I have selected my algebra lab students. These are students who have not had much success in mathematics and have continually scored poorly on the Connecticut Mastery Tests. These students are the ones who have not seen much success in school and have difficulty pushing themselves to higher standards. I want them to continually challenge themselves by organizing information, interpreting the information.
I plan for the students to form conjectures or predictions and test the results. It is so important that they look at the information needed to predict what is going on. Within these rules we hope to explain the science behind cooking.
My goal is for students to have success in math, to force them to use their brains and lastly to give them the life skill/ability to make a meal from start to finish.