Activities & Lessons

Math Meets Culinary Arts: How Do Chefs Use Math in Their Job?

4 Min Read
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Feed Your Brain by Learning about Math in Cooking, How Math Helps You Run a Restaurant, and More!

How do chefs use math in their job, and how is math used in culinary arts in general? In this episode of Math at Work, three Culinary Arts students from Manhattan’s Food and Finance High School explore the application of mathematics in cooking with Carla Hall from ABC’s The Chew. They also get a surprise kitchen visit from Nicholas Elmi, a winner of Top Chef!

Check out the video for all the savory details, and keep an eye out for a cameo appearance by a White House chef and a former first lady! Then, take a look at the lessons below that give students hands-on experience with related math concepts.

The Math at Work web series features industry leaders who work directly with a range of real students to demonstrate the industry-spanning power and importance of real-life math.

Diamond, Lyanna, and Jacob get hands-on guidance from Jenny McCoy, Michael Garrett, and Dalia Jurgensen, chef instructors at the Institute of Culinary Education. Diamond wants to be a pastry chef, and in this episode, she focuses on figuring out how much of each ingredient she needs to bake a cake. Lyanna wants to open her own restaurant, and here she learns to convert grams to ounces for an entrée, along with scaling down the number of servings. Jacob wants to become a nutritionist, and he focuses on scaling up the number of servings and saving money by replacing fresh vegetables with frozen. Each student learns the specifics of math in cooking from Kim Agin, a math expert and former teacher.

Show students how delicious math can be by sharing this video, and help them get a taste for how it all works by having them sample the lessons below!

Try These Ready-to-Use Lessons

How important is math when it comes to making good food and succeeding in the culinary arts industry? Ask students to complete these lessons to find out. Then, consider asking them to come up with a math-related food idea of their own!

Lesson 1: Baker’s Percentage

In this lesson for Grades 6–7, students use ratio reasoning in the baker’s percentage to identify precise quantities for a recipe.

Lesson 2: Relish Ratios

In this activity for Grades 5–6, students solve a multi-step problem by converting measurement units and scaling down quantities.

Lesson 3: Scaling Up

In this activity for Grades 5–7, students use ratio and rate reasoning to scale for large quantities and compare costs.

Lesson 4: Protein Proportions

In this activity for Grades 6–7, students apply proportional reasoning to analyze the percentage content of ingredients in a meal.


Learn more about the Math at Work web series, an HMH effort in which industry leaders work with real students to demonstrate the importance of learning math.

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