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NumberFix: Mathematical Recipe Metaphors

A Writing Across the Curriculum Lesson from NumberFix
Math Topic: any Students Write: a recipe that shows knowledge of math topics

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Writing for Math Class:
Recipe Metaphors

This writing across the curriculum lesson was written by NNWP Teacher Consultant, Corbett Harrison, who believes it would work well with students in grades 4-12. Corbett used it with fifth and sixth graders.

This lesson was proposed to NumberFix using this template. If you have a math/mentor text lesson you'd like to have published, fill out the template and send it to Holly Young, our NumberFix Coordinator: We'll send you an NNWP Print Publication if we post your lesson here!

Lesson Overview & Objective:

In two of his books-- Reviser's Toolbox and 51 Wacky We-Search Reports --author Barry lane shares the idea of recipe poems. Barry provides examples for social studies and history, but Corbett wanted to see what these "poems" might look like in the hands of students thinking about math.

Students study the format of a recipe from a cookbook. Then they create a mathematical recipe to be published in a classroom "math cookbook."

Writing Skill (Trait) to Stress
while Teaching this Lesson:

The focus traits for this writing assignment are idea development and word choice. The purpose of creating the recipe metaphor is to require your students to explain a mathematical idea or concept in their own words. This lesson also provides an excellent opportunity to play with action verbs, as students discover creative ways to think about the verbs one would find in a recipe.

Materials List:

Teacher Instructions:

Step 1: Start by playing "Cooking Verb Boggle" with your students. I hand them rectangular Post-it® Note-sized templates or index cards and have them number from 1 to 10. Tell them they will each be writing a list of ten verbs they could see in a recipe. I give the example of "bake," but I warn them not write that one down because it's a very obvious example. Their goal is to try and come up with ten verbs they think no one else will come up with. Explain how, in Boggle, if someone else has your word, both of you have the cross the word off your lists, and that will mean one less point is earned in the game.

Give them 4 or 5 minutes to create their lists. In the last class I did this with, I found many of them using verbs like burn and eat. I told them, while those are verbs you might do in the kitchen, they are not verbs you see in common recipes. I had a few protestors say, "You might!" I had to tell them what this game actually wanted was them to think of unique and authentic recipe verbs, like baste or mix. I also told them that spelling might count in the end so they were to do their best at guessing at spelling on verbs they didn't know.

I put the students in groups of four and had them play "Boggle" against each other. One student shares one word and if he/she is the only one in the group who thought of that word, it gets circled and earns the student a point; if one or more of the other students also wrote down that word, then the point goes to whoever spelled it correctly; if all spelled it correctly, then all cross the word off.

At the end, ask who got the most points. No matter who has the most, I tell them they're all winners, as long as they each earned at least one point!

Step 2: Now hand out the alphabox worksheet, telling students they have seven minutes to record as many cooking verbs as they can in the boxes. They can write multiple words in the same box, but challenge them to try and think of one word for every box. They may use all of the words from their boggle card, even the crossed out ones. It's okay to let students work in partners on the alphaboxes.

Have students share out verbs they thought of that they were particularly proud of.

Step 3: Put a real recipe on the overhead where all can see it. Talk about its two parts: the list of ingredients and the instructions for mixing the ingredients together. Tell them they will be creating a recipe metaphor that borrows these two parts from a real recipe.

I always begin the thinking about the metaphor by asking, "Suppose we were to make a creative recipe for HAPPINESS. What ingredients would we need? Could we explain what to do with those ingredients using cooking verbs? Is it okay if someone else's recipe for happiness looks different than yours?"

There are some "emotional recipes" posted here that you can show students.

Step 4: Now show them any content-inspired teacher and/or student models you have from different curricular areas than math. I just find it most helpful to start with a creative recipe metaphor that isn't about math. The "Suffragette Stew" recipe from 51 Wacky We-Search Reports is particularly effective for helping students understand what we mean by recipe metaphor.

Barry Lane posts a lot of videos on You-Tube of students reading aloud assignments inspired by his books. Below is a link to a student reading her "Flapper Fondue" recipe from their unit on the 1920's. If you click on the picture below, you will be taken to our Ning where Barry posted a direct link to this video. If you visit the link and cannot play the video, you are on a computer that either blocks Nings or You-Tube. Try viewing the video on a different computer.

Ask, "So now that you understand the idea of a recipe metaphor, what topics come to mind if I were to assign you a mathematical recipe? What food-inspired names might we call these recipes?" Make a short class list for all to see, but then challenge students to think on their own before they commit to a math topic.

Step 5: Initiate a discussion about "showing deeper understanding" of math by sharing the following student samples page I have created. Click here or on the picture below to be able to print the examples for your students to analyze. I have always found these two samples charming.

I posted three discussion questions at the top of the handout for the students to ponder. The first is a pretty easy question, the second a bit harder, the third even harder. Facilitate a discussion that helps your students eventually offer advice for the two writers. Once your students can offer advice, I believe they are ready to draft their own recipe metaphors.

Have them choose their topics (or assign one that you've been working on) and begin creating a list of ingredients.

Step 6: After they list some ingredients, challenge them with this question: "Which ingredient does there need to be the most of? Why? How can you describe the amount you'll need using a quantity you might see in a real recipe?"

Students should then refer to their alphaboxes as write the instructional second-half of their recipes. Ask them to practice the advice they thought of when they looked at Bridget and Crissey's examples.

Step 7: Have students share their drafts in small groups. Have students offer advice for showing even "deeper" knowledge of the math concept they have made a metaphor for. Have students offer advice on verb use. Challenge students to revise their recipes based on the advice they received.

Step 8: If students choose to revise, allow them to add their mathematical recipe to a classroom "Mathematical Cookbook." Display your cookbook and allow students to read it when they finish their math work early. Each year, have students add more recipes to it!

Do you have a student sample to share?

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!

We're currently looking for student samples for all grade levels for this writing across the curriculum lesson!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Samples for the lesson on this page can be posted for review at this posting site.



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