Math at Home is now Early Math Counts! Visit our new website!

Snacking through the Math Standards

Guest blogger: Diann Gano, M.Ed.


Many parents and early childhood educators are turning to online learning as they shelter in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are many ways to meet your early math standards while engaging in everyday offline activities—if you know what to look for. Since we started out the month of April in the kitchen, let’s continue with the food theme and snack our way through some early math adventures!

To get started, grab a tray of fruits, veggies and maybe even a sandwich.

How will you use these food items to meet your early math standards? By matching and sorting! With this simple activity, we are looking at the ways that these food items are the same and the ways that they are different. We are also comparing and ordering sets. When we compare and contrast the characteristics that describe something, we call these attributes. This is math! When the children in my group engaged in this activity, they sorted by vegetable, but your group may sort by size or color.

Let your kiddos do the chopping, peeling and serving to build their fine-motor skills. They can tear, cut, stack, assemble, chop, stir, mash, grate and roll! Let them spread, sprinkle, measure and pour! Ask them to describe the taste of their snacks to build their vocabularies. Their food may be spicy, savory, creamy, delicious, fruity, sour or scrumptious!

Can they create an order or progression in a predictable way? That’s a PATTERN! Can they duplicate it, extend the pattern, repeat it? Can they create a figure by following your SEQUENCE? This is math!

Get creative! Give your children 5-10 pieces of fruits or vegetables and challenge them to create a figure. We don’t want to be wasteful, so only let the children use what they can eat. This activity helps build NUMBER SENSE!

RATIONAL COUNTING refers to a child’s ability to assign a number to each item in the collection.

ABSTRACTION is the principle that any set of objects that can be seen, touched, heard or imagined can be counted. This sounds so simple, but this is math. This is the foundation that we need to lay down before we can ask our little learners to do more than they are ready for. When you count with your child or children and they realize that the last number word represents the total number of objects in the set, that is CARDINALITY!

Keep it simple. Keep it fun. You can do this with snacks. You can do this at any mealtime. Extend the learning. Trust me, you are meeting the math standards for kindergarten readiness. Enjoy your time with your children and the math skills will follow!

Diann Gano, M.Ed.

Diann Gano—who opened her family child care program, Under the Gingko Tree in 1986—has long believed that "the earth gives us what we need to learn" and that nature is "the perfect environment for little brains to grow and learn in every day." While conducting research for her master’s thesis on outdoor learning in early childhood settings, she learned about the Nature Explore Classroom Certification Program, which recognizes schools and other organizations that have made a commitment to providing outdoor classrooms and comprehensive programming to help children use the natural world as an integral part of learning. She enrolled in the Nature Explore Classroom certification program after completing her master’s degree in 2010, and Under the Ginkgo Tree was certified as a Nature Explore Certified Outdoor Classroom Program in 2011. A member of the Erikson Family Child Care Portal Project Advisory Board, Gano has also participated in the Erikson Institute’s Early Childhood Leadership Summit and served as a webinar panelist for Town Square Illinois, an online resource and professional development tool for home-based providers. She has presented at the local, state and national levels on topics such as indoor and outdoor learning environments, the importance of loose parts in early math education and the impact of immersion in the natural world on brain development in young children. In 2016, Gano was honored as a recipient of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Child Care Innovator Award for creating a school environment that inspires children to become more active and engaged learners. In May 2019, she received the prestigious Terri Lynn Lokoff/Children’s Tylenol National Teacher Award, which honors 50 outstanding early child care professionals across the nation each year for making a lasting difference in the lives of the children they serve and setting them on a path to success in school and in life. She received her BS in liberal arts from Western Illinois University and her MEd in education from St. Mary of the Woods College in Indiana.

Read more posts by Diann Gano, M.Ed.

20 Replies to “Snacking through the Math Standards”

  1. “Snacking through the Math Standards”
    This is sure a couple of great ways to learn and practice math with your children at home using food. As long as you do not waste any. The children are able to count, sort, and make pattern with their foods and that can become a lesson.

    1. Snacking is a great way to do math with the children as they manipulate the food they are counting shaping

    2. I totally agree, these are really great resources to share with families while they are at home during COVID 19

  2. I have learned so much from this blog and am very glad I found it. We don’t yet know when we will go back to our classroom, but when we do, I will be sure to use a lot of the lessons I came a
    cross here for my students. Thanks

    1. I agree we love to incorporate food, learning together but makes for vfc a vfc wonderful learning environment.

  3. This is a really creative and hands on activity that parents can do with their child when it comes to snack time!! Yummm! While prepping their snacks, parents can ask their child what veggies or fruits they are chopping up.

  4. Love the idea of counting with the veggies and fruit, make snack time fun, mathematical learning, & open their palates to various tastes.

    1. I agree Susan! Such a fun way for parents to involve their children in snack time. Thank you for sharing Diann. I think parents who are not teachers can really appreciate these easy math
      concepts while having a good time with their little ones.

  5. This is a fun way to bring math into the home not just during this time of staying at home, but year round. Parents can use this even before their kids start school.

  6. Its a great idea that parents involve the children during snack time preparation. Its an easy way to teach children math concepts while have a great time preparing their own snack

  7. very nice way to learn math with vegetables, and fruits, is very interesting for child and keep his focus and engagement to learn

  8. These are great! I wish I had that creativity when my twin boys were in preschool. They are now 13 yrs old and would think I have lost my mind! 🙂

  9. Healthy snacks are always good. I’m always encouraging my children as well as the children I work with to eat health. It is always fun to incorporate food into activities, making objects is an added bonus. Allowing the children to use skills of all different aspects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: