- Baking is full of measuring, so they see and use a lot of numbers. In fact, writing down a recipe for future use or for giving to another person to reproduce is a key motivation for even having numbers in the first place.
- Fractions appear naturally if you use American measures or recipes
- You often have to do scaling calculations (halve or double the recipe)
- The process involves physically interacting with quantities; this is an important step for building comfort and intuition that sets a foundation for picture-based and abstract forms of mathematics.
- Every product has hundreds of variations and competing recipes, so it encourages a spirit of exploration and investigation (see this brownie fugue, for example)
- Small children can manage almost all the necessary steps, so it can help reinforce growing habits of independence
- Of course, baking itself is a skill that is worth learning
- You get to eat the end products!
What to bake?
I started drafting a treatise outlining the pros and cons of choosing breads or cookies or cakes to bake with the kids. Then I realized that probably no one else will care. For now, let's just say that all of them have their merits and eventually we will end up doing some of each. Here are recipes in each category that I recommend or have had recommended to me (I'll add to this over time and have included some for which I don't have a link):
Lidia's pizza dough: very few ingredients, relatively easy to mix dough, very short baking time
challah: we make a half recipe
popovers: haven't made this recipe yet, but we will try it this weekend
French Yogurt Cake: also this, but note that we haven't made this!
pancakes: ok, you got me, this isn't baking, but we still love them.
rice crispy treats: again, not really baking, but who cares?
chocolate chip: enjoy this show (video, text) and go wild with variations
Other Cooking Resources for Young Mathematicians
Good Eats/Alton Brown: fantastically entertaining and I love the thematic focus he uses for each show. I've given you an "official" link, but probably better to look for episodes on youtube as above in the chocolate chip section.