Crazy Dogs for Mealtime Math Fun

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

Crazy Dogs for Mealtime Math Fun

June 30, 2014

You know weโ€™re always looking for good reasons to play with our food, so hereโ€™s an easy way to add zing, and math, to a simple summer meal. All you need to get going is a pot of hot water, 20 or so strands of spaghetti, and a package of hot dogs or brats (the kind that come pre-cooked).

With your kid chefs, take out the hot dogs. Cut one in half crosswise. Cut the next hot dog into thirds (three pieces) and the next into quarters (four pieces). Note the pattern: 1 cut makes 2 pieces, 2 cuts make 3 pieces, etc. If you cut the hot dogs 5 times, how many pieces would that produce?

Compare the hot dogs in their current state. Which dog would make the most filling meal? Of course, they are all equal to one full hot dog, but it can be challenging for a young mind to grasp that more pieces doesn’t equal more food.

Get a Little Crazy

Now grab those strands of spaghetti and transform your ordinary hot dogs into crazy dogs. Poke the strands of pasta into and even through the pieces of hot dog. You might establish patterns like you see in the left photo, short, long, short, long. Your junior chefs can also count the number of pieces of spaghetti the stick into the hot dog, as we did with the squid-like dog. Perhaps your kids will set a world record as they attempt to embellish their dog with the most pieces of pasta ever!

Put your crazy dogs into boiling water for five or so minutes until the hot dogs and the pasta are cooked. Toss in an extra few strands of spaghetti in the name of even more math fun.

While your food is cooking, keep busy with these activities:

If you have a kitchen scale handy, measure the weight of a piece of dry spaghetti and record that number. We’ll get back to this later.

No kitchen scale? No worries! Take a few dry pieces of spaghetti and challenge your crew to create simple geometric shapes like squares and triangles. How many pieces are needed to create each shape? Notice the relationship between the number of angles in the shape and the number strands needed to create it. Can you make a circle out of dry pasta?

Use a piece of spaghetti as a ruler. How many spaghettis tall is your counter top? Your oldest child? Your dog?

Food’s On!

When the food is ready, have the adult remove the crazy dogs from the pot. Dang, they are crazy hot! While theyโ€™re cooling, give those extra strands you cooked a cold water bath so you can handle them. Weigh a piece of cooked pasta and compare that to the weight of the uncooked pasta. Figure out of how much water the spaghetti absorbed in the boiling bath by subtracting the uncooked weight from the cooked weight.

Can you make a circle out of cooked spaghetti? Yes, but the limp spaghetti doesn’t make a very useful ruler measuring stick, does it?

Did all that math make you hungry? Go ahead and eat those crazy dogs!

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About the Author

Kim Moldofsky

Kim Moldofsky is a mom of teen boys in the Chicago area. She blogs at and hosts a the popular monthly #STEMchat on Twitter where parents and educators share ideas and resources to raise STEM-loving kids.

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