Math Lit: The Pancake Menu

Bringing back my Math Lit series this week! It is our first week of school, and I have been waiting anxiously to get to use this book with my students.

(click the picture to go to Amazon)

The author of The Pancake Menu, Lucy Ravitch, contacted me awhile ago to see if I'd be interested in reviewing her new book. Of course I would! When I received it and read it I had no problem posting a positive review on Amazon. However, I also knew that before I reviewed it here on my blog I wanted to use it with students. That meant I had to wait until school started - which it did this week - so on day 2 we made pancakes in math class!
There are many kinds of pancakes in the book, with beautiful fold out pages that give detailed directions. Each pancake has a math correlation with money concepts. Lucy has online materials to supplement the book. In class we used the order form to practice addition with money. I kept things simple - second day of school, and lots to do - and my kids just flipped over our activity.

I started by mixing up a container of pancake mix (this made it really easy to do at school) by just adding water and shaking. Then the batter goes into these squeeze bottles which I picked up at Walmart for about $1.00 for a set of two. This is where I made a big mistake - I put too much batter in the containers and then had them sitting until class time. They overflowed as the batter rose!! In fact, one kind of exploded all over the sink and wall, which was good for a laugh. I apologized to my custodian when he came in, but he is just so awesome he takes stuff like that in stride!

This is after I tried to clean up some of my mess!

In our math meeting I shared the book, showing students all the different kinds of pancakes and how the fold-out pages work. They thought it was amazing and of course want to try all the different kinds. I then introduced them to the name pancakes. In this activity they used their order forms to calculate the cost of their first name. Each letter was valued at $0.30, so this was a great way to informally assess some skills on just the second day. As you would expect, I have third graders who can already use multiplication to solve this and others who could not add up a column of two-digit numbers. After a couple tries they could look for someone to help them so everyone was able to have some success.

As they started to come show me their order forms I began making the pancakes for their first initial. After doing a few I got pretty good at the letters and started getting some compliments about how good the letters were looking! My principal loaned me her griddle which made it easy to do 3 or 4 letters at a time. I squirted a little syrup on the plate and they had finger food - just dip the letter.

I heard one student tell another during this activity that my class must be the most fun class ever! (Along with this in math we also did our first science experiment which was another big hit.)

So, what I loved about using The Pancake Menu in my classroom:
  • My students - all 36 between my two classes - were completely engaged in what we were doing
  • They were having fun doing the math, and no one got upset about it being hard since it was such an easy environment to do this
  • Kids said they were the best tasting pancakes ever!!
  • They want to make Tarantula pancakes at Halloween and Heart pancakes for Valentine's Day; they want to do more math!
  • The insight I got about students' math understanding. A couple kids asked if I was going to grade them and I said no, it was a fun way to practice, and asked them to take their forms home and tell their parents what we did. They have no idea that it was a type of assessment.
This book is a great addition to the classroom and also for home for fun activities with your own children. I also want to point you toward Lucy's blog Kids Math Teacher and her TPT store, where you can find more of her products. Check it out!


  1. Great! Such a treat to know the kids really enjoyed the math activity with pancakes! I didn't know you had written the post until I saw on my analytics some clicks from your site : ) Thanks again for the review and I hope the kids parents will want to buy the book for them to have fun at home. I'd be happy to do a virtual school visit (via Google Hangouts or Skype) with the kids and I could ship autographed books to the school if their parents want to buy a copy. Let me know : )
    ~Lucy at Kids Math Teacher


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