‘When am I ever going to use this in real life?’

The all-too-familiar remark uttered upon being faced with a difficult math problem often stumps parents and educators alike. We can reply with endless examples about cool careers that need math, how it shapes our future, how it contributes to the development of technology, etc. What all those examples have in common is the timeline – they all take place in the future.

A way to engage students with math and show them its applicability is engaging them in the present as opposed to the future. By showing them how math can be used in ‘real life’ at this specific point in time, it showcases the immediate importance of developing those skills.

Humans need sustenance and always will. Why not use that basic fact of life to do bring forward a fun math lesson integrated with cooking? This way, students can learn by doing and reap the delicious fruits of their labour. The kinaesthetic engagement with the subject matter is bound to bring some reality to the seemingly theoretical world of math.

The recipes and engagement questions can be adjusted for difficulty. We have put together one kid-friendly recipe with accompanying questions to get your imagination going. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a class-wide potluck?

Ham and Pineapple Pita Pizza


Credit: Atco Blue Flame Kitchen

Serves 4 grade 3-6 Mathletes

2 pitas
4 ounces sliced deli ham
1/2 8-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Heat oven to 425° F
  2. Place the pitas on a baking sheet. Layer with ham, pineapple and mozzarella cheese.
  3. Bake until the pitas are crisp and the cheese has melted, around 10-12 minutes.

This recipe offers many learning moments. Here are some questions to get your imagination going:

  1. How much of each ingredient would we have to use if we had a dinner party for 8 people? What about 16?
  2. What percentage does a slice of pizza represent when we cut one of the pizzas into 4 slices? What about 16?
  3. What fraction does a slice of pizza represent when we cut both of the pizzas into 4 slices? What about 16?
  4. How many grams of ham, pineapple chunks and mozzarella do we need to make two pizzas? What about 4?
  5. What is the ratio of sliced deli ham to pitas? What would the ratio be if we were cooking for 8 people?

Are there any unique ways in which you engage your students/kids with math? Let us know in the comment section below!