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Buying Food: Fractions/Decimals/Percents, Ratios/Proportions, Mean/Median/Mode   Tags: urban studies  

This unit would allow students to build their understandings of important math concepts such as averages and ratios using nutrition and food accessibility issues as real world applications.
Last Updated: Jul 22, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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reading nutrition labels

a. The instructor will walk students through reading a nutrition label and will then have students use nutrition labels to do word problems with fractions, decimals, and percents (see NutritionLabels-WordProblems worksheet in materials). Instructor will provide students with help as needed.

   >note: The worksheet will require students to already have learned a certain amount about fractions, decimals, and percents. This lesson is meant to help students apply this knowledge.


additional ideas

1. This PBS math cooking video may be useful inspiration for further lessons:


food prices

a. The instructor will present the students with some data on food prices from local stores (see food prices chart in materials). Students will then be tasked with figuring out the mean, median, and mode of prices for certain categories of food (such as fruit or snacks) and figure out a way to display this information visually (e.g. with a bar graph).

   >note: This activity will require students to already have learned a certain amount about mean, median, and mode. This lesson is meant to help students apply this knowledge.

b. Students will also be invited to discuss what they notice about pricing of food, e.g. what type of food is more expensive, junk food or vegetables?

c. Have students watch the following clip from Food Inc. and PBS POV U.S. Agricultural Subsidies and Nutrition Lesson Plan, fill out the viewing guide (in materials) and discuss.

   >note: See full lesson plan for more ideas for more in depth exploration of the clip and related topics:



Thank you so much to Kate Jones and Cathy Schrader, who contributed great inspiration and ideas for the creation of this lesson plan!


budgeting for food

a. For this final lesson, students will be given different scenarios involving income and necessary expenses and will use this info to explore more with averages and percents (see Budgeting Worksheet). Students and instructor could also engage in a follow-up discussion revolving around the thought questions on the worksheet.

b. In class, students will watch the following trailer for “A Place at the Table” and discuss what they got from the video-what are the problems of hunger that were discussed? What solutions are offered? The instructor should give a brief description of how food stamps work and point out the video's acknowledgment that high calorie, low nutrition foods are often cheaper-compare this with what students found in examining data on food prices.


c. For homework, students will be asked to read the following satire article from The Onion on food affordability. A follow up class discussion should have students reflect on why the woman in the article is not able to get fresh and nutritious food, what the article is making fun of, and how this article relates to what we learned about food prices-does it contradict or confirm what we learned?



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