# Pie-less cultures and fraction learning?

August 25, 2012 7:47 PM Subscribe

Are there cultures that don't have pie and/or how did you learn about fractions?

I'm interested in the fact that a canonical example for teaching fractions is the number of slices in a pie.

This makes me wonder if there are cultures that don't really have pie. If these cultures exist, and if/when kids learn about fractions in these cultures, what are the concrete examples they are given?

Alternately, if you learned about fractions from some non-pie example - could you share that example?

*(posted to food & drink as opposed to education because i'm more interested in direct answers to the pie culture question, though i'd settle for anything)*

I'm interested in the fact that a canonical example for teaching fractions is the number of slices in a pie.

This makes me wonder if there are cultures that don't really have pie. If these cultures exist, and if/when kids learn about fractions in these cultures, what are the concrete examples they are given?

Alternately, if you learned about fractions from some non-pie example - could you share that example?

I grew up in the US and didn't learn fractions from pie. I seem to recall numbers of things -- like apples or sheep.

posted by J. Wilson at 7:55 PM on August 25, 2012

posted by J. Wilson at 7:55 PM on August 25, 2012

We always talked about numbers of things - I think I figured out why people used pies (and pizzas) several years after first introduced to stuff like "what pennies and quarters are when compared to dollars" and "apples picked from this tree versus apples picked from all the trees."

Looking at pie charts still kind of confuses me, to be honest. It's not especially intuitive beyond halves and fourths.

Apples seem to be a really heavily counted object, I guess.

posted by SMPA at 8:14 PM on August 25, 2012

Looking at pie charts still kind of confuses me, to be honest. It's not especially intuitive beyond halves and fourths.

Apples seem to be a really heavily counted object, I guess.

posted by SMPA at 8:14 PM on August 25, 2012

I also grew up in the US and didnt learn with pie. We learned with parts of things, I definitely remember apples.

As far as cultures that don't have pie... absolutely. I don't know for sure, but i cant think of any eastern cuisines at all that have pie.

posted by DoubleLune at 8:17 PM on August 25, 2012

As far as cultures that don't have pie... absolutely. I don't know for sure, but i cant think of any eastern cuisines at all that have pie.

posted by DoubleLune at 8:17 PM on August 25, 2012

No recollection of learning with pie either, in New Jersey. I was hooked on a pretty silly, primitive little computer game - Fraction Fever - and I earned money for time spent playing educational games, so I taught myself fractions that way.

As a side effect it also inadvertently taught me chromatic scales and helped me get into All-Shore Chorus years later.

We did use pies in junior high in geometry, where my teacher had a party with food and taught us to calculate areas of pies, ice cream cones, donuts, etc.

posted by Stacey at 8:27 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

As a side effect it also inadvertently taught me chromatic scales and helped me get into All-Shore Chorus years later.

We did use pies in junior high in geometry, where my teacher had a party with food and taught us to calculate areas of pies, ice cream cones, donuts, etc.

posted by Stacey at 8:27 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

A "pie" where I come from is a small pastry sac filled with pureed offal and tomato sauce, intended to be eaten out of hand rather than sliced. The obvious example for fractions was cake.

posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:35 PM on August 25, 2012 [14 favorites]

posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:35 PM on August 25, 2012 [14 favorites]

I'm from the US, and we learned with numbers. Once we had a demo with parts of chocolate bars.

posted by blnkfrnk at 8:39 PM on August 25, 2012

posted by blnkfrnk at 8:39 PM on August 25, 2012

I'm in the US and we used oranges, pizza, measuring cups and money for examples of fractions.

posted by FritoKAL at 8:54 PM on August 25, 2012

posted by FritoKAL at 8:54 PM on August 25, 2012

You might also be interested to know that the Egyptian notation method for fractions is somewhat strange and clumsy to modern eyes.

posted by XMLicious at 9:26 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by XMLicious at 9:26 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

In Singapore, we were taught about pie CHARTS. Not pies. So same thing, but we didn't use actual PIES.

posted by shazzam! at 10:04 PM on August 25, 2012

posted by shazzam! at 10:04 PM on August 25, 2012

I learned by having two nephews my age as my companions and playmates. When I was about seven years old we had to figure out how to divide a quarter between us, and all we had were five nickles. It was a grim epiphany.

It got a little better after we went to a gas station, and turned the nickles into pennies. I say better, but I still have hard feelings about how it turned out. Math doesn't solve everything.

posted by mule98J at 10:52 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

It got a little better after we went to a gas station, and turned the nickles into pennies. I say better, but I still have hard feelings about how it turned out. Math doesn't solve everything.

posted by mule98J at 10:52 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

We have pies but for fractions is was mostly cake (no actual cake was used) and sometimes chocolate bars

posted by missmagenta at 11:27 PM on August 25, 2012

posted by missmagenta at 11:27 PM on August 25, 2012

In 1960s UK no pies were involved in our maths until we got to pie charts. To learn fractions we used collections of objects (coins, counters, whatever) and the briefly fashionable Cuisenaire Rods

posted by Decani at 2:03 AM on August 26, 2012

posted by Decani at 2:03 AM on August 26, 2012

We had chocolate bars and cake in Scotland, since a pie is not for sharing.

posted by scruss at 4:57 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by scruss at 4:57 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've got a book from the US that references oranges instead.

posted by tilde at 5:43 AM on August 26, 2012

posted by tilde at 5:43 AM on August 26, 2012

I'm still somehow surprised that everywhere doesn't use Cuisenaire rods because that's how both my husband I learnt a lot of early maths such as fractions and counting (NZ, early-mid eighties) and it just worked so well.

posted by shelleycat at 5:58 AM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by shelleycat at 5:58 AM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

So those things are called Cuisenaire rods! They were a staple in lower elementary classrooms in Ontario, Canada when I grew up, along with teaching fractions as N out of M whole items.

posted by thatdawnperson at 6:52 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by thatdawnperson at 6:52 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

**XMLicious**:

*You might also be interested to know that the Egyptian notation method for fractions is somewhat strange and clumsy to modern eyes.*

Hopefully not too far OT, but you might also find the ancient Egyptian method of multiplying (also called the "Russian peasant" method, as you'll notice at that link) and dividing very, very cool - Primarily because you can do almost arbitrarily large calculations in your head with ease. Basically it amounts to converting it to binary on-the-fly, for which your "multiplication table" has only one (and a half) rule(s) to remember: 1x1=1, everything else equals zero.

posted by pla at 7:09 AM on August 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Charmingly, the French don't have "pie charts" but instead have "graphique camembert".

posted by metaBugs at 12:05 PM on August 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

posted by metaBugs at 12:05 PM on August 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

At my school in New Zealand in the early 1980s, we used oranges. Actual oranges that the teacher sliced in front of us. That was the first introduction to fractions. After that to work with them ourselves, we used Cuisenaire rods.

posted by lollusc at 6:57 PM on August 26, 2012

posted by lollusc at 6:57 PM on August 26, 2012

I'm almost certain we learned "m out of n" in my schools, as well.

We also used some sort of non-Cuisenaire things made of wood -- small cube (1), rod (10), flat square (100) and large cube (1000). It was kind of like this demonstration of a Montessori work (youtube).

posted by raena at 7:32 AM on August 27, 2012

We also used some sort of non-Cuisenaire things made of wood -- small cube (1), rod (10), flat square (100) and large cube (1000). It was kind of like this demonstration of a Montessori work (youtube).

posted by raena at 7:32 AM on August 27, 2012

This thread is closed to new comments.

posted by unknowncommand at 7:53 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]