Students get a delicious lesson in math

Fourth-grader Adam Smith from Lourdes Catholic School does a baking project for a math assignment last month.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

BETTENDORF — Fourth-grade teacher Leeanna Holmes took a unique approach to teach her students about fractions in a remote baking lesson over the internet.

Her class of 20 students took the class via the online program Zoom. “We have been learning about fractions for many weeks now, and this (baking lesson) is such a practical application of fractions.” For instance, if you need one and a half cups of flour but have a one-quarter measuring cup, how many cups should you put in? What if you need 1 teaspoon and have just a one-half or one-quarter measuring teaspoon? “We were finding equivalent fractions when we needed them.”

“Our recipe was Wacky Cake, which was popular during times of duress in the U.S., like WWII and the Great Depression,” Holmes said, “so making something that does not need ingredients like milk, butter or eggs, seemed to historically coincide.”


Each week the class meets via Zoom. During the baking class, some students baked a wacky cake while others baked cookies, cupcakes, banana bread or whatever they wanted. “I did have some wildly creative and motivated students, so some people decided to do more,” she noted. Some recorded a video, another did a slideshow, another posted his recipe for cookies and others sent photos of the process or results. “They love to go above and beyond,” Holmes said proudly.

This baking project was “unique to our current situation of being at home with kitchens, ovens and our own ingredients. And parents who can help us to be safe.” This particular class “loves projects, so it was perfect for their personality. Plus they love sweets.”

Students received the assignment a week ahead of time. Hadley Edwards and her dad, Tyler, had ingredients ready to make the chocolate wacky cake that Homes provided as an example. “We decided to record the baking because I have been working with our girls to learn how to edit, produce and direct their own films,” Tyler Edwards said.  “I saw this as an opportunity for her to make a bunch of small video clips and combine them into a story to share with her friends. Hadley created the content on her own and I showed her how to upload the videos into iMovie. We edited the movie together and created a movie cover with Canva.  After putting it all together Hadley wanted to add the music.”

He said the idea of students applying skills learned in class to a real life activity in a fun and creative way is a great idea. “Hadley used critical thinking to choose the measurement cups for the ingredients,” Tyler Edwards said. Hadley said she enjoyed the project because she loved baking the cake and had fun sharing her video with friends.

Tyler Edwards said the timing of the cake project was great because Hadley’s youngest sister celebrated a birthday, so the whole family enjoyed the cake later that evening. For a first-time baker, Hadley did everything on her own. Her dad added, “She enjoys the independence of trying new things.”

The Edwards family appreciates the efforts of all teachers at Lourdes made to make learning from home as engaging as possible. “They have made the transition from learning in the classroom to learning from home seamless. The kids love getting to see each other during the week in their Zoom classrooms,” Tyler Edwards said.

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