Teaching Maths Language with Food

This list of ideas can be used for lessons within a classroom or during preparation of snacks or meals in the home. They are designed to help you teach or make it easier to explain some of the language that mathematics concepts are built on.


  • Cut the apple crosswise to find the star… Count the points and count the seeds.
  • Cut the star out with an apple corer — it’s a cylinder. The hole in the apple leaves a circle.
  • Continue cutting the apple crosswise into slices to make more circles. Count the slices.
  • Compare the sizes of the slices. They can be arranged from smallest to largest.
  • Then eat the apple donuts!


  • The shape of an orange is a sphere.
  • Peel and separate the slices – they make moons. Count them before eating.
  • Slice the orange crosswise and count the triangles.


  • Count how many bananas are in the bunch… Take one off to eat. Ask “How many are left?” (This can be done with grapes too).
  • Be sure to notice the moon shape.
  • Slice into circles and compare the sizes of the slices.
  • Count them before eating.


  • A carrot can resemble a cone shape.
  • Group carrots or carrot sticks into groups of 2’s or 3’s before cooking or eating.
  • Slice into circles and compare the sizes of the slices.
  • Share them out with family or friends for dinner.


  • Group celery sticks into groups of 2’s or 3’s before eating.
  • Spread cream cheese or peanut butter in the trough of a stalk. Lay a row of sultanas on the spread – counting them while you go.
  • As you eat they could sing “Little Speckled Frogs” on a log.

Fruit Salad…

  • Create patterns with various fruit pieces on scewers. Count the pieces.
  • Sort fruit pieces into colours and name.

N.B. When you cut fruit or biscuits speak of half, halves and quarters.


  • Use all different kinds of biscuits, have the child sort and name the shapes of the biscuits. (Premium, Wafers, Scotch Fingers – rectangles, Jam Tarts or Ritz – circles, Cheds, Sao – squares, Shapes/In A Biskit Boxes – hexagons, ovals, triangles)
  • Break the biscuits into different shapes  – Ched squares into rectangles or triangles. Turn Premium rectangles into squares or Scotch Finger rectangles into smaller rectangles.
  • Spread cream cheese or peanut butter on biscuits. Draw numbers in the spread when counting them (use a toothpick or scewer). Be sure to have the child watch you draw the numbers! Your example is the best thing for their learning to write.
  • Ask “How many left?” when eating them. The child gets to read the number before eating each biscuit.
  • Putting their age on the cracker is fun too. You can teach them time language like ‘last’ and ‘next’. Ask “How old are you?” Then draw the number. Ask “How old were you last year?” Draw the number. Then ask “How old will you be next year?”

You can do letters of their name too.


  • Sort M&M’s, Skittles or Fruit Loops into containers by colour (use egg cartons or a muffin tin).
  • Make groups of 2’s and 3’s.
  • Count each colour before eating.
  • Ask “What colour has the most?” and “What colour has the least?”


  • Cut a sandwich into different shapes – squares, rectangles or triangles.
  • Use cookie cutters to give you other shapes. Let the child choose by naming the shape they want to make.


  • Pour the shape of numbers into the pan (be sure to do it backwards).
  • Let it cook until it’s browned. Then pour a regular pancake over the number. When you flip it, you will see the number in the pancake.
  • Have your child ask for the number of the pancake they want to eat.

You can do letters and shapes too.

Chocolate Crackles or Cornflake Cups…

  • Have your child measure and count cups of ingredients after helping them find the number in the recipe on the cereal box.
  • Count out the cupcakes. Count and share out spoonfuls of ingredients into the cupcakes.


  • Have your child measure and count cups of ingredients after helping them find the number in the recipe.
  • After preparation, the child can help help put the mix into a square, rectangular or round (circle) pan.
  • Let the child help decide how many servings to make… “Should we make 3 or 4 cuts this way?” “How many the other way?”
  • When it’s cut ask “How many squares (or rectangles) did we cut?” The slice pieces can be counted as they are put onto a serving plate.


  • Find the numbers in the recipe on the box and have the child help with the measuring.
  • Count the cups of water going in while the child stirs.
  • Decide the shape of the dish to use.
  • If you put less water in, you can cut the jelly into squares or other shapes (try triangles!)
  • You can also cut the jelly into other shapes with cookie cutters.

Dinner Time…

  • Count how many plates, bowls, glasses, utensils, napkins etc are needed.
  • Name the shapes or colours of things.
  • Have your child help set the table and count out the items as they do it.

These activities are also a great way to help your child explore mathematics concepts within their own environments and encourage spontaneous sharing of information with you next time they see shapes or numbers around them.

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