Pancakes with a Side of Math

By Kim Moldofsky

Elementary School

As a mom to two teens, I’m often reminded that math is everywhere. When my youngest was a preschooler he would watch me pull two slices of bread from a new loaf and alert me, “Mom, the bag says 24 pieces and you just took two out, so now we have 22 pieces left.” A loaf of bread isn’t the only way to build math skills in the kitchen.


Cooking from scratch provides myriad opportunities to learn about math, not to mention chemistry and nutrition. Homemade pancakes make a wonderful first meal of the day, AND this simple breakfast also provides math lessons for all ages. You needn’t turn each opportunity to cook into a cumbersome math lesson, but here are a few questions to sprinkle in as you raise math awareness and skills. Oh, and my favorite recipe for light, fluffy pancakes!


Measuring Cup Conundrums: For kids in the early elementary years, measuring cups provide a great way to learn about and experiment with fractions. A young child will enjoy playing with the different- sized cups in the sink, testing relationship theories among the cups. If I fill the ½ cup and dump the contents into the one cup, what will that look like?


Quantity Counts: As you mix the ingredients, comment on the quantities you’re using. We only need ½ teaspoon of salt, but one cup of flour. How many teaspoons do you think it would take to fill one cup? Google tells me the answer is 48, but that’s a good task for the child to work out while you’re flipping pancakes.


Sweet Additions: I have a sweet tooth, so we typically add chocolate chips to our pancakes. When the hotcakes are on the griddle, a young child can count out a set number of chocolate chips or blueberries to place in each one. An older child can be given a more complex math challenge, like figuring out the total number of chips needed if you want five chips per pancake and your recipe cooks up a batch of four.


Double Down: Doubling or tripling the recipe is another good challenge for elementary schoolers. Take time to review the recipe with your child, figuring out the new quantities of each ingredient. Let’s say you triple the recipe, making 12 pancakes, but the youngest member of your family ate fewer than expected. As a result there are two left over. What percentage of the pancakes was eaten (10/12 x 100)? What percentage of the pancakes was left over (2/12 x 100)?


Here’s my favorite recipe, adapted from “Fluffy Pancakes” on Makes 4 servings.

  • ¾ cup of milk (we like rice milk)
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1—2 tablespoons oil or butter, melted


Step 1: Measure the milk in a cup and add the lemon juice. Let this sit for a few minutes.

Step 2: Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Step 3: In a large bowl, mix together the lemon milk with the egg and butter. Add the dry ingredients and mix together until the batter is smooth, taking care not to overmix.

Step 3: Heat a large pan or griddle and place ¼ cup of batter onto the skillet. When edges are brown and bubbles pop up to the surface, flip them over and cook the other side until golden.


Enjoy your breakfast!


Compensation was provided by Sylvan Learning. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Sylvan.