In this installation of our mini-series on incorporating nutrition into STEM classrooms, we’ve put together math lessons that satisfy Common Core math standards and boost students’ health literacy skills.

By creatively incorporating food and nutrition tasks into math lessons, schools ultimately support students in developing healthy behaviors extending beyond the classroom. According to research, people with low mathematical proficiencies struggle to understand health-related information, including food ratio guidelines or even medication and surgical procedure risks. The below classroom lessons were compiled with high school math teachers in mind. Together the lessons compiled below teach encourage students to deepen their understanding of nutrition, dieting, and food production systems.

Fast Food Nutrient Analysis — Spreadsheet Lesson

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Students’ research, math problem-solving, analysis and spreadsheet skills are put to the test in this math assignment. More specifically, students practice properly labelling spreadsheet columns, entering sum formulas, and visualizing data on line charts, pie charts and other graph options.

Directions
1. Find nutrition information for your favorite fast food meal, recording the calories and fat calories of each item. You can find this information on the fast food restaurant’s website or calorie calculator tool websites such as CalorieKing and Calorie Lab. Record and save this information in a spreadsheet.

2. In your spreadsheet, use cell references to design formulas that calculate non-fat calories, total calories, and percent fat for each item of your favorite fast food meal.

3. Compare your meal with the FDA’s daily calories and fat intake guidelines for your age and gender group. Analyze and compare your data by plotting out a line chart, bar graph and/or pie chart.

Follow up exercise

  • Graph and compare the American men and women’s
  • Consumption of carbohydrate foods over time. (Consult the USDA)
  • Calculate the average sugar intake of the average American (Consult the USDA and CDC)

 

Analyzing Meal Plans — Algebra Lesson

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Students are tasked with identifying the nutritional content of food combinations. Bring matrix multiplication to life with meal planning problems.

Directions

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Source: College Algebra, Student Solutions Manual, 3rd Edition
(See here for more exercises)

Lesson add-on

  • Provide FDA recommendations on carbohydrate, protein and fat intakes. Have students compare nutrient levels of foods A, B, and C to nutritional guidelines using percentages.
  • Read FDA Food Labeling Guide

Follow up exercises

  • Consult this textbook for more algebra lessons on nutrition
  • Identify missing variable(s) from calorie or nutrition charts

 

Crops & Climate Cost Calculations — Algebra Lesson

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Students investigate patterns of association within bivariate data, and solve real-life problems using numerical and algebraic equations and expressions.

Directions

1. Despite the extreme effects of climate change, grain production is at a high worldwide. Chart domestic (US) and global grain production, and global climate over time.

2. Analyze how environmental weather patterns impact cereal crop production inputs and outputs.

Follow up exercise

  • Graph and compare the nutritional value of top consumed crops for two countries of choice

 

Which of these lessons do you plan on using? How will you adapt them to your classroom? Share your feedback in the comments!

Barack Obama Green Charter High School
Barack Obama Green Charter High School is New Jersey's first sustainability-focused charter school, cultivating the next generation of STEM and environmental leaders, with a 100% college acceptance rate!