By Leah Peterson

I was inspired by the current issue of The Change Agent, “All About Food,” to write up a post with a food theme. There are many different online tools and resources around diet, nutrition, and cooking that can be used to develop lessons that incorporate everyday problem-solving using math and technology.

Lesson Idea

Begin by asking your students if they cook, and if they do, if they follow a recipe. You could have students read either “Fast Food: Bad for Your Health” or “Growing Up With Not Enough”.* Then list some benefits of cooking your own food that are identified in the articles. Another fun discussion-starter on this topic is this short YouTube video by Michael Pollan “How Cooking Can Change Your Life” (2:29).

*We’re happy to be able to share these Change Agent articles with you here for free. The rest of the magazine, audio articles, and extras, are available by subscription


Depending on your time, have the students work in pairs at a computer to go through all or some of the scenarios below. For my examples, I’m using this recipe for chocolate chip cookies, but you could pick any recipe you want from or a similar site or have students pick out their own recipes.

1. Missing Ingredients


You are missing two of the ingredients for your recipe. Use this chart to find out what you could use instead.
Example: I am missing 1 teaspoon of baking powder. I could substitute 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar.

2. Changing Recipe Sizes


You have guests coming and need to double the recipe. How about triple the recipe? Use this conversion tool to simplify your measurements. For example, instead of six teaspoons of vanilla you could put two tablespoons. If you are using you can “cheat” by clicking on “change servings” in the recipe. Try doing it on your own first, then use the recipe adjuster to check your work.

3. Dietary Restrictions

You have guests who cannot eat certain foods. Will your recipe be something they can all eat? Will you need to substitute ingredients or even look up a different recipe? If you don’t know what the words mean, go to the Google search bar and try finding the definition by typing “define:” and then the word.

  • Gluten Free
  • Nut Allergies
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian

Example: If I wanted to make chocolate chip cookies, the vegetarians could eat this recipe but I’d need to use a different recipe for the gluten free and vegan guests. The guests with nut allergies could eat the cookies if I left out the walnuts.

4. Counting Calories


You’re on a diet! You want to eat only a certain number of calories. Use this calculator to estimate the number of calories in your dish.
Example: I only can eat 200 calories of cookies. Each cookie has about 138 calories, so I can only eat one!

Wrap Up
Discuss which of these online tools students think that they’d be most likely to use and why. What other situations might come up while preparing food that online tools might be able to help with?Download a Word version of the scenarios that you can edit to use in your classroom.What other lessons related to food have you tried in your classroom? Share with us in the comments!

Leah Peterson is the Assistant Director of the EdTech Center and manages E-Learning PD, a collection of online courses that provide opportunities for adult education professionals to explore topics that they are facing in their programs, exchange ideas with one another, and get feedback from experts in the field. She also coordinates the IDEAL Consortium, and is the co-founder and editor for the Tech Tips blog. Leah is the Communication Coordinator for World Education/U.S. and supports the NELRC publication, The Change Agent. Leah is currently working toward her M.Ed in E-Learning and Instructional Design at Northeastern University.

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