Student motivation is key in any classroom, but it is especially vital in middle school math classrooms, where students are at a make or break stage in their math careers. The desire to learn and engage in mathematics is often challenged by the fact that students identify themselves as bad at math or they have difficulty seeing its value in the real world. One of the greatest tools that educators have in connecting students to mathematics is finding authentic experiences that inspire students and engage them in meaningful ways. It is important for us to find exactly what motivates our students and then provide them with experiences that spark that specific interest. With 30 minute webisodes designed around fashion and culinary arts, Math at Work helps students make mathematical connections to the world around them.
This first “webisode” dives into just how “glamorous” math can be. “You can’t be a successful designer, any kind of designer, without a strong knowledge of mathematics. Math is a critical part of the human experience. It is everywhere you turn in the world.” Tim Gunn of Project Runway explains the importance of the subject as he takes three design students through a fashion experience of a lifetime. Not only do these budding designers get to meet Diane von Furstenberg, but they also get to watch their own designs come to life and receive honest feedback from the world famous designer herself.
This week, the second webisode was released. Watch as Top Chef alumni Carla Hall and Nicholas Elmi are featured in “Math at Work: Culinary Arts.” Just as in the Fashion Designer webisode, viewers will follow students, this time culinary students from the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC, as they discover how essential mathematics is to cooking. As Hall notes, “You absolutely can not succeed without the strong knowledge of math, and eating the right foods just makes good sense.”
The Teacher Breakdown
Who: Middle school math students: I can see these videos being most useful in the intermediate grades, based solely on the mathematical content that is reviewed. That being said, this could also serve as a great introduction to math within fashion and the culinary arts that leads into a more complex project for more advanced secondary mathematics.
What: The webisodes are 30 minute videos that highlights how valuable math is in the world of fashion design and culinary arts. Each video is also broken down into shorter versions, which are helpful for students as they review the math specifics. Below is an example of the breakdown of the Common Core State Standards that are addressed within each of the provided lesson plans for the fashion design webisode. Similar lesson plans and recipes from the culinary arts feature can be found here.

Lesson 1: Use a Ratio to Measure Drew’s Cape

Solve problems involving multiplication of fractions and mixed numbers. 5.NF.B.6

Understand ratios and describe ratio relationships between two quantities. 6.RP.A.1

Solve problems involving scale drawings of geometric ﬁ gures. 7.G.A.1


Lesson 2: Convert Measurement Units for Robin’s Budget

Solve problems involving multiplication of fractions and mixed numbers. 5.NF.B.6

Convert between different standard measurement units. 5.MD.A.1

Understand and describe a unit rate (a/b) associated with a ratio. 6.RP.A.2

Use ratio reasoning to convert measurement units. 6.RP.A.3d


Lesson 3: Model Proportional Relationships to Select Jessalyn’s fabric

Extend previous understandings of division to divide unit fractions. 5.NF.B.7

Use ratio and rate reasoning to solve realworld and mathematical problems. 6.RP.A.3

Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities. 7.RP.A.2


Lesson 4: Find the Wholesale and Sale Price Using Percents

Find the percent of a quantity as a rate per 100, and solve problems. 6.RP.A.3c

Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems. 7.RP.A.3

Understand a problem context by rewriting expressions in different forms. 7.EE.A.2

Where: These Webisodes can be watched via YouTube or directly from the Scholastic Math@Work webpage. Lesson plans are also found on the scholastics webpage and can be downloaded as PDFs.
When: Both webisodes are now available. If you don’t have time to show the full 30 minute video in class, Math@Work is also broken into shorter installments that would allow you to include as you teach specific content, or even to assign as something to watch at home.
How: This can be used in a variety of ways, whether it be a project starter or a motivational tool. If you work to provide individual learning experiences for your students based on their own interest, then this Math@Work series is a great to tool to assign individuals who are especially interested in the art of fashion design or culinary arts. Could also be used as an all class example of math in the real world. Why not have your students take it to the next level and use the math to create a design and business plan of their own. If fashion or cooking isn’t their thing, you could easily adjust the project to fit their needs (ie: design and sell a skateboard).
Why: We know that for many students the key factor that is missing in their math education is motivation. A huge part of that is because they can’t connect the work they are doing in the classroom with their interests or their future. By providing students with authentic experiences that build a deeper understanding of not only concepts, but also how they fit into the world around them, you are supporting a greater value for the subject and increasing the likelihood of success in mathematics.
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I just showed the video with Carla Hall to my students on Friday. Although it also made them hungry they stayed focused on the story.