Dinner time is the perfect time for conversations and a great opportunity to engage with your children. The idea of Dinner Time Maths is to add a small spark of maths to the conversation. Discuss a mathematical idea as a family or solve a problem together.

I was reviewing equivalent fractions recently with a Year 7 girl. She understood the steps, realising that if she multiplies the numerator by a number she must then do the same to the denominator. She knew that the same goes for division as well. It was when I drew her a diagram and showed her the meaning behind what she was doing that I realised that while she knew the steps involved, it was all very abstract to her. She had no real understanding behind these rote learned processes. In the drawing I was able to show her that one quarter actually took up the same about of space as one eighth. This was when she had her “Ah ha!” moment and I saw the lights turn on.

Fractions are such a concrete concept and yet so many children see them only as abstract. This often leads children to really fear and loath fractions. Using a slice of bread at dinner time you can help bring some concrete understanding to the concept of equivalent fractions for your children.

Start with one quarter by cutting the bread into four equal pieces (one vertical and one horizontal cut). Point out one quarter, let everyone see which piece you are using as your one quarter.

bread in quarters

Now discuss the fraction one over four and if we multiply the numerator by 2 we get 2 and if we multiply the denominator by 2 we get 8. So from that we know that 1 over 4 is equivalent to 2 over 8. Using the same piece of bread add two more vertical cuts and this should create 8 equal sized pieces. Show your children that the piece which we pointed out as one quarter, is now in two pieces. It is the same amount of bread just in smaller pieces. Thus demonstrating why 1 over 4 is the same as 2 over 8.bread in eighthsYou can continue this exercise with more equivalent fractions and continue to demonstrate the point. This is a very simple activity and the power of understanding why, instead of just knowing what to do is a great gift to give your children.

Our inspiration for Dinner Time Maths comes from Laura Bilodeau Overdeck who is the brainchild of Bedtime Math, a brilliant blog dedicated to providing you with ideas to incorporate a maths problem into every day.

Photo credit: More Good Foundation / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)