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Cooking and Math - Proportions in the Pot


Delicious food emerges from apportioned ingredients. A pastry chef melds 1 ¼ cups of flour and ½ cup of butter to craft the crust of a tart. On a Saturday morning, a pancake lover blends 2 cups of pancake mix and 2 eggs to serve flapjacks to pajama-clad family members. Even the self-styled dumper – the cook who never measures a thing – tosses two bits of onion for each bit of bell pepper into homemade spaghetti sauce.

Use this article to practice with proportions in the kitchen.

What is a Proportion?

A proportion is the relationship between two quantities. For example, the red car travels 60 miles each hour. Based on this information, the red car will travel 180 miles after 3 hours.
1 hour/60 miles = 3 hours/180 miles
Notice that these ratios or fractions or rates are equal to each other.

Objectives of the Cooking Activity

•    Encourage children to apply proportions to cooking.
•    Encourage children to make mistakes in math and in cooking.


•    Water
•    Measuring Cups
•    6 cups of rice
•    Clean cup or bowl


EXPERIMENT 1: Cook rice with the correct proportions
1. Bring 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat to low. Let the rice sit for about 10 minutes.
3. Remove the pot from the heat.
4. After a few minutes, observe the consistency of the rice.

EXPERIMENT 2: Cook rice with the correct proportions, but don’t use a formal measuring cup.
1. Allow your child to choose a clean cup or bowl as the measurement. Let the budding chef use the measuring cup to “measure” the rice and water. Do not give the correct amount; let your child make mistakes.
2. Follow steps 2 – 4 from Experiment 1.
3. Let your child know whether the correct proportions were used.

EXPERIMENT 3: Cook rice with the incorrect proportions.
1. Bring 1 cup of rice and 1 cup of water to a boil.
2. Follow steps 2 – 4 from Experiment 1.

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