Home >> A Issues >> WIT >> Want Math With That?

Search form

Want Math With That?

Math teacher Taryn Kutneiwski is ready for the question, "When are we going to use this?" Answer: next time you eat out. Students were allotted an imaginary $40 per day and had to plan three meals in local restaurants without going over their limit. Included: Ideas for applying math to real life situations.

When are we ever going to use this?" is a grumble often heard in math classes about everything from moving decimal points to multiplying fractions and solving for x.

To show students how necessary math skills are, Taryn Kutniewski, the Royal 7 math teacher at Bnnet Middle School, gave students a budget for three days of dining out.

"I got the idea from the show $40 a Day on the Food Network," Mrs. Kutniewski (aka Mrs. K) says. On the show, host Rachael Ray visits cities across the U.S. and samples local cuisine, but only can spend $40 each day on meals.

Mrs. Kutniewski collected menus from local restaurants students would know, and distributed copies of them to her classes. She also gave students a "letter" from Ray, in which the show host asks students to "spend and eat for her," and report on their findings.

Like Ray, students only could spend $40 a day for three meals, including tax and tip. They also could not spend less than $35. Each meal had to include one beverage and students had to "order" at least one appetizer or salad or soup with lunch and dinner.

Some youngsters, giddy with food freedom, opted for meals such as two orders of mozzarella sticks, Mrs. Kutniewski said. Others were surprised by the cost of eating out. "One said, 'Wow, $15 for lunch is a lot,'" Mrs. Kutniewski says, after the student added everything up.

Students received worksheets to list the names of the restaurants, their food choices, the prices, and spaces for the 6 percent Connecticut state tax, and an 18 percent tip. Once she knew students understood the concepts and knew how to do the calculations, Mrs. Kutniewski allowed some to use calculators to prepare the final totals.

After all the tabulations were done, students then wrote a "letter" back to Ray, telling her which restaurants they choose, explaining why they choose those places, and including some suggestions about where she should dine and what she should order. Students also told her why she should visit Manchester, Connecticut, and made suggestions for places to visit besides restaurants.

"They had fun with it," Mrs. Kutniewski said.


Another project Mrs. Kutniewski used to get math into students' everyday thinking was a math dictionary. Students worked on the dictionary intermittently, and were required to list a term, give a definition, an example, and how they experienced that term in their lives; that is, find a personal association or characteristic. One student noted that he used fractions while measuring ingredients to help his sister bake cookies.

Working on the dictionary gave students a break from regular classroom lessons, Mrs. Kutniewski notes, and helped them see how math skills extend well past the classroom.

Take a virtual tour of Bennet Middle School.

Education World Goes Back to School

Education World news editor Ellen R. Delisio is spending several days a month this school year with the Royal 7's, a seventh grade team at Bennet Middle School, a grade 6 to 8 school in Manchester, Connecticut. She is observing and participating in students' learning, and talking with staff about their strategies and perspectives on improving student performance. She is a graduate of W. Tresper Clarke Junior-Senior High School in Westbury, N.Y.

(Editor's Note: All students' names have been changed) 

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World