Any way you slice it, second-grade students at Emerson Elementary School now have a better understanding of fractions and a greater appreciation for making pizza.
Sixty kids, plus two, 30-inch Brooklyn Bomber pizzas from Brooklyn Pizza equals the perfect ingredients for a fun and unique math lesson that tasted as good as it looked.
The pizza lesson was funded by Emerson’s Parent Teacher Organization as a way to get students excited about learning fractions.
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Shawn Malone, owner of Brooklyn Pizza, visited to talk about the importance of fractions and other uses of math in his daily business.
“When Mrs. (Jami) Kiel and I first thought to collaborate, they had just started working on fractions in class, and we both thought pizza would be a great way to show the use of this type of math in everyday life,” Malone said. “From our dough recipe to the slice count to the amount of product that goes out our doors, we use math every day in a fun, fast-paced work environment.”
Students were surprised to learn that Brooklyn makes and serves around 200 pizzas a week.
Malone demonstrated how he and his staff have to cut the pizzas into equal parts, first cutting it in halves, then thirds, then fourths, until there was enough pizza for everyone.
However, not every piece was perfectly equal, Malone said.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had to cut a pizza like this,” he said of the triangular pieces. “Usually, we cut them in squares.”
Malone said he appreciated the opportunity to give back to the schools and hopefully inspire kids to like and work hard at math.
“I feel like as a business owner with just a high school diploma, it’s important to share my story with everyone that hard work and dedication will still take you as far as you can dream in this world,” he said.
He also was impressed by the students and what they wanted to know.
“What a bright bunch of kids,” he said. “I was amazed at the questions they had on the fly.”
Student Joel Stevens said he learned from Malone’s presentation that you have to know math for almost any job, especially if you own or work in a restaurant.
“You should study hard when you are still in school so you can get a good job and be good at it,” he said.
Kiel said the idea to teach math with pizza is just one example of how teachers try to find fun and creative ways to introduce educational standards, such as fractions.
Throughout the school year, students have the opportunity to participate in a science fair, pick a pumpkin at the farmers market, plant flowers and hear from several guest speakers, among other activities.
“We try to come up with ideas that are engaging and meaningful for the students,” she said.
And at the end of the week’s lessons, the classes celebrate their learning accomplishments. And what better way to celebrate than with a gooey, cheesy piece of pepperoni or cheese pizza. Throw in a breadstick, cookies and juice, and fractions have never been so well-liked.
But the students weren’t the only ones that learned something.
“I learned that you can divide a monster Brooklyn Bomber pizza into more than 40 pieces,” Kiel said.
She said it was great to use a real-world model to teach the topic, instead of just using, pencil, paper and a textbook.
“The textbook is a great tool to help introduce new topics and vocabulary,” she said. “And most kids love pizza, and its circle shape is a great way to view equal parts, unequal parts, halves, thirds, fourths, et cetera.”
Student Gabby York said her teachers make it fun to learn. But she likes math, regardless.
“Doing fractions with pizza is even more fun than doing it just on a plain old piece of paper,” York said. “Fractions and other math can be fun no matter what, though.”
After the lesson, students took a quiz, and all of them answered the fraction questions correctly, Kiel said.
“I hope they learned that learning can be fun and very hands-on,” she said. “We loved seeing the students eating pizza while discussing fractions.”
Malone said he remembers being a kid and wondering how fractions would ever be useful in his life.
“I hope kids see that what they are learning is something that they will use throughout their entire lives and that learning these skills now can and will benefit them forever,” he said.
He is hoping to be able to work with other school groups in the future to teach pizza, math and smiles all in one lesson, he said.