Serving Up Fractions & Project-Based Learning

Learning fractions can be pretty dry business unless, of course, you are the Upper Prep students of Jane Repp and Megan Farrell. After attending a conference on project-based learning, Repp created math unit entitled, "How Might We Add Our Favorite Recipes From Home To The Lunch Menu in the KO Cafeteria?" Farrell said the point of the multi-tiered lesson was to teach multiplying and dividing fractions with a relatable, real-life application. The culminating authentic assessment involved the Sage Dining team, headed by Brian Woerlen, who cooked several home recipes that the students had converted to serve 100 people.

Initially, the students interviewed Woerlen to understand the needs of serving the students in the dining hall. How many people eat at the dining hall on a daily basis? How many servings do they eat? After Thanksgiving, the students brought in recipes of their favorite home cooked main dishes, side dishes, and desserts: chicken cordon bleu, bacon cheese au gratin, lasagna, pumpkin bread, hot chocolate cookie cups, and roast beef to name a few tasty bites. One parameter was that each recipe had to include at least ten ingredients and half of those ingredients included fractions and mixed numbers so the students could test their prowess with multiplying and dividing.

Recording their work in meticulous blue notebooks, the students jotted their math problems down and kept a daily written journal entry reflecting on the driving questions of the problem to reinforce their understanding of the math. If the students still wondered about a particular problem, class time was spent tackling the issues. Initially, the students were required to double their recipe. Then, the students scaled up their recipe, multiplying each of their ingredients to feed the large crowd. Farrell said the students were deeply engaged with the material and were thoroughly invested all through the project. As tantalizing as many of the dishes were, the students had to make some tough decisions and vote on which meals would ultimately be prepared by Sage Dining.

On December 12, after two days of prep work, Sage Dining set up an elaborate banquet in the center of the cafeteria showcasing the foodstuffs: roast beef, potatoes au gratin, buffalo chicken tenders, teriyaki chicken, ginger and lime marinated grilled shrimp, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate trifle. Unsurprisingly, Wyverns crowded around the table heaping their plates with the delicious meals as the Middle Schoolers served as ambassadors to explain their projects with display posters. In Part II of the exercise, the students interviewed Woerlan as to why certain desserts were not chosen (they contained nuts), were their conversions correct (they were), and how long did the food take to cook (six to seven hours). The students gained a deep appreciation for the hard work of the kitchen staff and learned how many of the people behind the scenes at KO contribute to making the school an extraordinary place.

Woerlen said, “It was challenging to make everything because the normal lunch production still had to go on, and this is a busy time for catering. Overall, it took about seven hours to prepare everything. But, it was a lot of fun, and the students were very excited to arrive at lunch and see everything prepared. I enjoyed seeing their positive reaction and excitement.”

Reflecting on the lesson, Isabella Mendolivici ’25 said, “I thought it was so much fun compared to just learning from a book. It’s much more interesting when you're using something of your own." Veronika Garfield concurred, “I think it was an effective way to learn to fractions. This taught us how to multiple recipes by 100.” But, the students learned lessons that were not all math related.  Merri Decker ’25 was initially nervous to interview Woerlen, but worked through her discomfort, “At first it was scary and then I got used it. And, he’s really nice.” Isabella decided to write her reflections about the project with a creative flourish by describing a medieval math class. “Who’s going to be the most peasant-y character in my story?” she wondered. Food for thought : )

Located in West Hartford, CT just steps from Blue Back Square, Kingswood Oxford is a private school inspiring co-ed day students in grades 6-12 with a college preparatory curriculum. Empowered students become clear confident communicators, resourceful problem-solvers, and ethical leaders. KO: where unlimited potential meets endless opportunities.
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