Math and Your Local Restaurant

Connect ratios, fractions, scale factor, percents, and elapsed time to restaurants.

By Mollie Moore

We each seek to connect what we teach our middle schoolers to real-life experiences. Why not connect mathematical concepts to local restaurants? Here are some ideas to get things started.

Connect Percents to Practical Understanding

Your local restaurant is the perfect place to connect percents to practical understanding. Percents and decimals can easily be seen in taxes, tips, and discounts. You can introduce this connection through word problems in your classroom. Design word problems that incorporate one, two, or all three of these factors. After this introduction, pupils can then go to a local restaurant, eat their favorite foods, get their receipt, and check it for accuracy. Have kids bring in the receipt and verify whether or not the bill was correct. Naturally, they must show their work to demonstrate their understanding. This practice is great for adding and subtracting decimals correctly. Another hands-on project idea for your classroom would be to create a mock restaurant where students can order food, write up their own receipt, and then calculate tax and tip. Food from a list that you provide can be brought in by your pupils prior to the event. The food doesn't need to be elaborate, something as simple as Debbie Cakes works just fine.

Demonstrate Ratios and Scale Factor

Every building or restaurant has a floor plan. Introduce these floor plans to demonstrate scale factor through a video you create or by taking a field trip to a restaurant. One way that you can use these floor plans in your classroom is to provide a scale factor for a few tables in word problems, but the remaining tables must still be determined by your class. Once this lesson is complete, challenge your young architects to design their own restaurant including tables, chairs, and a waiting area. As part of the activity, require them to make their design to scale.

Practical Examples of Fractions

Unique restaurants can be found in every community. Use these unique eating establishments to have your class gather some famous recipes to use as practical examples of fractions. The recipes can be used to show young bakers and mathematicians alike the importance of fractions. Have students determine how much of each ingredient the owner must purchase for a busy evening if he knows how many of each dish will be ordered. Once they have determined the total number of orders, they can figure out how much of each ingredient will be needed. To extend the lesson, consider finding several receipts that have overlapping recipes so that adding fractions will also be required.

Elapsed Time

Often, young mathematicians struggle with elapsed time because it can require several conversions. Restaurants can be incorporated into an elapsed-time lesson when you feature the fact that most people people do not stay at a restaurant for exactly one hour. As customers, your learners can keep track of the amount of time they spend at each restaurant. They can look at the time they came in, and the time they left. Using those times, challenge learners to calculate how long they were at the restaurant, add up the total time they were in a restaurant if they went to more than one, and then write a story problem to explain the situation. Additionally, they can sit in a restaurant and time a few different table groups: what time they came in, and what time they left. There are a variety of ways you can develop the results into math lessons.

On another note, waiters and waitresses do not always work exact shifts, but may clock in slightly early and leave slightly late. Create word problems that show this practical example of elapsed time in which the calculation to determine the amount of time work is required. If a local restaurant has a written or printable time card, obtain a copy of one and challenge your students calculate how much an employee worked over several days. You could even take this a step further and have them calculate the gross pay for a time period. Recently, have you had students practice writing equations? Challenge them to create an equation to determine how much an employee makes given any number of hours.

The usefulness of math in real life becomes so obvious when you relate it back to restaurants. What are some way that you incorporate restaurants into your curriculum? Please share with the Lesson Planet Community so we can all find ways to inspire our learners to discover math.

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