How chocolate can build maths confidence!

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Apart from using chocolate to bribe your child to do some maths, actually there are many ways to use chocolate to help your child build maths confidence and, with most of them, your child won’t even realise (unless you tell them)! Shhh!

The weather in Sydney at the moment is perfect for staying indoors. It is cold and rainy. So what could be better than baking a delicious chocolate treat! 

Everyday Maths Skills

Cooking and baking with your child is a great way to incorporate everyday maths skills and build maths confidence while they’re having fun. Just as with other subjects your child learns, being able to relate their maths to real life situations and having hands on experience, helps your child to develop their learning and understanding further and make the concepts more meaningful and build confidence. An added bonus is that, because your child is having fun, they will retain their knowledge more easily.


If your child is young, making something like chocolate cornflake cakes is quick and easy. Your child will enjoy mixing the ingredients together. For young children, they need a lot of practise counting accurately rather than just saying the numbers from memory. Encourage your child to touch each cake as they count – this helps them to develop their one to one correspondence (where each number relates to one object). Ask your child questions such as: 

  • Let’s count the spoonfuls of sugar together?
  • Do we have enough chocolate? 
  • How many cases have you put on the tray? 
  • Let’s count these in twos

Simple addition and subtraction

Baking chocolate cookies was also a firm favourite of mine and again gives great opportunities for your child to practise understanding addition and subtraction in a real life situation. One of the areas that many children find challenging in maths is understanding word problems. By asking your child questions similar to the ones below, you will be helping them to relate the numbers and words. It is also important to see if they can make up their own word problems.


  • How many cookies are you hoping to eat? What about me? So how many cookies is that altogether? How many will be left?
  • If we all eat 2 cookies, how many will be left?
  • I’d like to give 12 cookies to the neighbours and keep 20 for us. How many cookies will we need to bake?
  • How many cookies do we have right now? If we put another one on the tray, how many will there be?


Estimation is a skill that many children find challenging. The more experience your child has with estimating, the easier and more accurate they will be. Pretty much whenever I cook, I use estimation!

Here are some suggestions that are easy to do:

  • Ask your child to estimate how much flour is 100 grams and then check on the scales. Are they close? 
  • How many cupcake cases/cookies do they think they can fit on a tray?
  • How many cookies do they think they will make out of the mixture they have?

Measuring and reading scales

I have a favourite chocolate cake – its secret is using evaporated milk as one of the ingredients. Having grown up in the UK (and with a mum who still uses imperial measurements) I am used to using recipes which require weighing the ingredients. Baking more complicated recipes, such as chocolate cakes and brownies provide real life context of reading different scales, such as on measuring jugs and weighing scales.

Most children find reading scales on weighing scales challenging as first, they need to work out what each little line represents. By encouraging them to use an old-fashioned scale rather than digital scales, you are helping them to develop this skill and develop their maths confidence. Not only that, these types of scales require your child to sometimes round numbers or estimate when they have the right amount of the ingredient.

Real life fractions

We are surrounded by fractions. Despite this, lots of children have a fear of fractions and lack understanding. Here in Australia, many recipes use cups and fractions of a cup. Using fractions in baking and cooking means that your child will be more used to seeing fractions in real life and therefore less anxious when learning about them at school.

 Through baking, you can help your child see the relationships between the different fractions and ask questions to help them such as:

  • Which cup is bigger – the half or the third? 
  • How many ¼ cups fit into the ½ cup?
  • Our whole cup is missing – how many ⅓ cups do we need to get the same amount?

Ratio in everyday life

Ratio is another area that children find hard to understand. Again, using ratio while baking, can really help them to develop this area of maths. For example, one cookie recipe I use makes 45 cookies. Sometimes this is too many and, at other times, it’s nowhere near enough! For a party, I might want to make 90 cookies or more. Another time, I might only want 22 cookies. Talk with your child about how they can alter the recipe to make the number of cookies they want.

If you would like to find out more about how you can help your child, I have created a PDF download with 8 Practical Tips which are easy to implement. 

If you are interested in finding out more about my style of tuition and if I am a good fit for your child, you are welcome to book a 15 minutes appointment with me to find out more. Click the link to the left.

Catherine Rooke

A specialist international maths tutor helping children with maths anxiety, maths difficulties and dyscalculia have positive maths experiences.