Maths: have a pizza party

Hi, hope you are managing some of the games I have been suggesting these past weeks. There seems to be no immediate end to this weird lockdown, so – onward and upward. One good thing may be emerging from all this. As parents, maybe you are becoming more aware of what (and how) your child learns. Your enhanced understanding could end up as a positive silver lining beneath this dark cloud on all our horizons.

So, how about a pizza party? Kids love pizza – and pizzas love maths. So, armed with your coloured card, scissors and crayons – let’s make fractions fun. You could even make a real pizza to go with the ideas, with lots of talk about the fractions as you tuck into your pizza for lunch or dinner.

First the cardboard version: cut around a plate for the circle, then carefully cut the whole circle into wedges so that you can play at fractions. Use a ruler to get them as equal as possible and talk about each fraction of the same whole needing to be equal. First cut down the centre – into two halves. Then halve each half into quarters, then halve each quarter into eighths. Alternatively – cut into thirds, then sixths, then twelfths. Talk as you go along, so that your child understands how halves become quarters, then eighths – and so on. If you cut an eighth in half – what would this smaller fraction be? Sixteenths. The wedges are now fractions of a whole pizza. Ask questions. How many halves in the whole? How many sixths? Why?

Try to be aware of what your child can absorb. By Year 2/3 children have covered the basic idea and should know that two halves, four quarters, and eight eighths form a whole shape. Which fraction is smaller – half or quarter? Which is larger – sixth or twelfth? WHY? The ‘why’ question is particularly important. Knowing that the more parts any whole shape is shared into, the smaller they are, is crucial. From the visual (what your child is looking at and talking about) jump to the logical (applying understanding to what is not seen). Ask more searching questions. For example, would a pizza of the same size cut into fifteenths or twentieths end up as larger or smaller wedges than the one you and your child are playing with?

This first stage is about fractions of the whole shape – in this case, a circle. Your child could also cut smaller shapes to represent things to put on his pizza – tomatoes, mushrooms, pepperoni, pineapple pieces, and so on. Keep it fun! This stage is about finding fractions of quantities. How many tomato pieces altogether? Sixteen? A pizza cut into eight? If you shared them equally between the eight wedges – how many on each wedge? Two. What does this mean? One eighth of 16 is 2. Two eighths of 16 is 4 …..and so on.

If your child is in Year 4 – the focus is on equivalent fractions: 1/2 equals 2/4 and 3/6 equals 6/12. So by placing equivalent pizza wedges on top of each other, your child can see which pairs of fractions cover the same area. Also which quantities match: the 8 tomatoes placed on one half of your pizza (1/2) are 8/16, so your child sees that 1/2 equals 8/16, and the 4 tomatoes placed over the quarter (1/4) also equal 4/16. The possibilities for playing with equivalents are endless. Ideas will overflow once you get going.

Fractions have a notorious reputation. Many children struggle to understand the concepts so playing with the ideas in these kinds of ways is the answer. We can now also see how playing with the pizza wedges, and placing the toppings equally onto each wedge offers much scope for the visual and practical learning I blogged about last week. Your child is talking, seeing and doing at the same time. This really is VAKS in action. Brilliant!

More ideas next week. Meanwhile all you need to know is out there in my books for parents. Start by finding out WHAT your child learns and HOW. My books will help – Support Your Child with SEND (Book 1) and at successive Key Stages (Books 2 to 4), by Sylvia Edwards, all available from Lulu in printed form, and from Amazon. Visit my website: Parents: Help YOUR child succeed.

Good luck.

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