There’s calculating fractions … and then there’s planning how to make cupcakes.

If the second option sounds like a lot more fun, you’re in agreement with fifth-graders at Albert Harris Elementary School who were actually doing both in one recently.

In Hailey Richardson’s class, “Fractions Café,” students wore white chef hats and colorful aprons as they sat around tables, solving problems together.

“It’s a math bakery,” Richardson said. The point was to give students practice in adding, subtracting and multiplying fractions.

The room was set up into four stations: cupcake, cake, cookies and decorators. Each section had baking tools on the table. On the cookies table, for example, students had to answer regarding whole numbers or fractions. Each possible answer was on its own paper in the design of a chocolate chip cookie. The child would use a spatula to pick up the “cookie” that had the correct answer on it.

Students had recipes for favorite treats and charts to fill out, such as to write the recipe doubled, and for five times and then 10 times the original amount. Conversation at each table was lively as the kids talked about how to solve those equations.

To hear Fernanda Domingues Machuca, Olivia Turner, Caleb Valentine and Dulce Romero talk, baking is old hat, and calculating fractions comes as second nature.

“I actually bake with my mom,” Olivia said, “sometimes cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies with my grandpa.”

“I know you bake cake,” Caleb interjected.

“Yes, I bake cake,” Olivia said.

Fernanda explained the project at hand: “We’re multiplying fractions because we’re going to have ..."

Olivia finished for her: “We’re having like a math benchmark [test], so we’re having a fun review that we can enjoy.”

“We get to use these, so it could help us,” Dulce said, “and see what the numbers we have to use, whole numbers and fractions to multiply and get the answers.”

Said Richardson: “The more engaging the activity, the more you’re going to get on-task, good” behavior and attention.

“Mrs. Richardson has been a wonderful addition to fifth grade,” AHES Principal Renee Brown said. “This is an example of some of the hands-on learning that we’re trying to teach our children.” When something “is really fun for children, they like to learn” it.

Richardson is a 2011 graduate of Martinsville High School and studied at Bridgewater College and Liberty University. For her first three of her four years as an educator, she taught the English Language Learners class.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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