Though STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects are naturally exciting and innovative, sometimes their complexity can be overwhelming for children who are not as confident in these topics as they are in humanities or arts classes. In order to develop and grow this confidence, embracing informal learning, or types of education that occur outside of the classroom, is critical.
Experimenting with your child in the kitchen is one of the most effective (and tasty) ways to promote the relevance of science. Read below for two ways you can explore STEM topics through the act of cooking!
1. Learning mathematics through fractions
Professional and amateur chefs alike understand that using the correct proportions of ingredients in a recipe is essential to preparing good tasting food. For example, a meal that calls for one teaspoon of salt will taste much worse if one tablespoon is used instead. While mathematics taught in the classroom can often come across as abstract, when tasting a dish in which the proportions of ingredients vary drastically from that of the recipe, the importance of mathematics is immediately apparent. With your child, select one of their favorite pastries and have them make two versions: one that uses the correct proportions of ingredients, and another where the amounts are randomized. It will take one bite for your child to taste the difference and realize the relevance of numbers.
2. Exploring chemical reactions through cooking
One of the most fundamental chemical reactions that occurs in the kitchen is the Maillard reaction. Named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, this reaction describes the browning that occurs when meat, seafood and other protein-rich foods are heated beyond a certain temperature, thereby rearranging the sugars and amino acids inside the food. This reaction is one of the main components that gives cooked food its’ appetizing aroma and flavor. Other chemical reactions that occur in the kitchen include fermentation, caramelization and pyrolysis. Explore different recipes that make use of these reactions to show your child that chemical reactions are more common than they might think.
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At the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, we are committed to celebrating the lives of our world-changing Inductees and inspiring the next generation of innovators through our education programs. To learn more about our mission, we encourage you to visit our website, and for more ways to bring STEM subjects to life, check out our blog!