Math is made tasty as numbers add up to recipes


With assignments such as Counting Kool-Aid, Hundreds and Thousands Sandwiches, and Gorilla Muffins, math class never tasted so good.

For two weeks, students in a summer math camp at Manchester Elementary School learned that math plays an important role in such everyday activities as paying bills, working and, of course, cooking.

For the camp's final class Friday, students measured their way through a recipe for math camp ice cream, made by shaking milk, sugar, salt, ice and vanilla together in locking plastic bags.

Aside from a punctured bag and some tired arms, the project was a success.

"It was good," 8-year-old Nicole Green said of her ice cream. "I put chocolate syrup, sprinkles and whipped cream on mine."

About 60 students, ages 6 to 14, attended the math camp, the first of its kind in Carroll County. The camp offered two sessions, with daily two-hour classes. The students met in three groups according to their ages.

"The idea is to help children become more comfortable with math and to reinforce the basic skills in a real positive manner," said Erica Guenther, a teacher at Spring Garden Elementary School who developed the camp's curriculum with fellow teacher Mary Davis.

The camp was open to students from Manchester, Hampstead and Spring Garden elementary schools and North Carroll Middle School. The two-week session cost each student $65; 10 to 15 students received scholarships.

Originally, the camp was intended for "at-risk" math students, but Ms. Guenther said it attracted students of all abilities.

"It was a great carry-over of the skills they learned throughout the school year," said Teresa McCulloh, a Hampstead Elementary teacher who taught at the camp.

"Even more important, I think if a child doesn't have such a good attitude about learning or school, this atmosphere hopefully altered that attitude," she said.

After a first-day lesson on estimating, the students began each class with an estimating problem. On Friday, their assignment was to determine how many popcorn kernels filled a jar.

Students also read a book each day and participated in a math activity related to the book's story line.

"I really enjoyed the literature-math connection," Ms. McCulloh said. "It was a neat way to integrate the two subjects."

After students read the book, "One Gorilla," they made Gorilla Muffins using a recipe from a zoo in North Carolina. Their math skills helped them reduce the quantity of muffins in the recipe.

"In regular math class, you don't cook at all," said Chris Chatfield, 9, a student at Spring Garden Elementary.

The students also practiced counting money, played math computer games and heard from guest speakers who talked about why math skills are important in the world of work.

Heather Renfro, 10, said the cooking activities helped her with fractions.

"Sometimes when we were baking, we had to split it [an ingredient] in half because it was too much," said the Hampstead Elementary student.

Ms. Guenther said she hopes to hold another math camp next summer.

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