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Cementing the Foundations - A Recipe for Success

In teaching of mathematics, it has been established that students best learn when a concept is introduced to them with concrete materials. This understanding is then placed in context with a modelled explanation, such as with a picture or a diagram. Once these two representations of the concept have been introduced, it is possible for the abstract nature of the concept to be taught and a clear understanding can develop.

This methodology has been espoused by many educational theorists for decades and rings very true. I however believe that one important step in this sequence is missing – the concept taught as something gastronomic. It obeys the simple scientific principle that boys like to eat.

Cooking plays a big part in our Junior School with Cooking Club, the annual Cook-Off and in the teaching of abstract topics. The idea that the best way to teach a growing boy about something that is difficult to visualise in a way that will sate his mind, as well as his stomach, is (pardon the pun) a recipe for success. Our maths students in year 4 who work with Mrs Conlan and Mrs Conybeare have been studying fractions, measurements of weight and volume, as well as conversions between measurements.

To help the boys interact with these topics, seeing them in a concrete context, they were given a recipe for pancakes and the ingredients. The success of the outcome depended on their ability to follow the instructions, use fractions and combine the ingredients in the correct measures. Not only is this a great hands-on way to teach these difficult and abstract concepts, it has the dual effect of motivating the students to ensure they are working with care and accuracy. Nobody wants to eat floury pancakes.

Also in year 4, our teachers with the assistance of School Officers, have been creating edible strata of earth. A mix of tasty treats combined in a glass tube to show the way the layers of ground are formed and the way it is compacted to form strata can be seen in this experiment. Once again, an abstract concept, taught with concrete materials. Perhaps the way to a boy’s brain, as well as his heart, is through his stomach!

Gavin Baumber, Junior School Learning and Curriculum Leader.