Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds is a playful look at math in the kitchen. It includes six recipes, each related to a mathematical concept such as Fibonacci numbers, tessellations, or fractions.
The balance of recipes is good; sometimes in order to entice children, authors feel the need to include all sweets. In Eat Your Math Homework, four out of six recipes are healthy (fruit kebobs, tortilla chips, pizza, trail mix), and the remaining two are cookies and brownies. The illustrations are humorous, with a lot of detail available for children to notice. These details include a fraction dishtowel and ever-increasing Fibonacci numbers appearing throughout the book.
With each recipe, the author introduces some great math vocabulary terms (algorithm, consecutive, tessellation, probability); these are gathered in a glossary at book’s end. While I didn’t notice any glaring mathematical errors, a mathematician might frown upon minor details like the definition of a polygon as “a figure with at least three closed, straight sides”.
The decisions of what to explain in detail and what to assume the reader knows are interesting, making the intended audience age difficult to discern. For example, the “math appeteaser” for the Fraction Chips recipe involves finding and comparing the areas of two circular tortillas. Later, in the Probability Trail Mix section, there is a brief description of how to convert a fraction to a percent using a calculator that doesn’t include directions for then converting a decimal to a percent. These topics span a wide range of grade levels.
In addition to mathematical omissions, there were a couple of cooking omissions, such as pan size for the Tessellating Brownies, and crust size for the Variable Pizza Pi. This indicates that the author is probably neither a chef nor a mathematician, and that the reader needs to have some prior experience in the kitchen.
More than teaching mathematics, Eat Your Math Homework introduces ideas, making it a good starting point for mathematics enrichment. An upper-elementary teacher or a parent of a 7–10 year old would be able to use this book to add a little mathematical conversation to the kitchen. A middle school student who likes cooking or math could probably read this book on their own and get some ideas for recipes or fun math for after school time. The major goal of the book seems to be getting families together in the kitchen, and if some mathematical conversation gets included, that’s a great bonus.
See also the book's web site at http://www.eatyourmathhomework.com/.
Christine Latulippe is Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Norwich University in Northfield, VT. She believes in the power of cooking and eating in groups, so you can rest assured that none of these recipes will be attempted alone.