Friday, September 26, 2014

Culinary Math and Visual Mnemonics

For the upcoming fall term I've been contracted to teach a culinary math class at a local culinary school. The course deals primarily with units of measure, yields, and recipe costing. Doing my own research into the course content I found an excellent resource in Culinary Math, by Linda Blocker and Julia Hill. Overall it is an excellent introduction into the mathematical topics that are important to cooks and chefs, and the terminology they've developed around them.

One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed is its use of visual mnemonics. The first one they use is this one to show the relationship between cups, pints, quarts, and gallons:

Within each 'P' there are two 'C's, indicating that there are two cups in every pint, and so on; two pints to a quart, four quarts to a gallon, etc. This has a really nice recursive relationship as well, within each 'Q' there are four 'C's, meaning there are four cups in a quart. The design of it is pretty simple, nesting letters inside of each other. Compare this with the 'normal' way of looking at unit conversions, a table, and the benefits are pretty clear.

While the table is only good for one conversion at a time, the above image shows the relationship of four different units. The succinctness of the image is powerful.

The other visual mnemonics are based on the below image:

To find one of the parts cover it up and follow the below 'rubric'.

- If 'P' was covered up, mutliply the 'W' (whole amount) and the % (the percent given).
- If 'W' was covered up, divide 'P' (part) by the '%' (percent).
- If '%' was covered up, divide 'P' (part) by the 'W' (whole amount).

While not the most ingenious thing, it is a fairly simple mnemonic to follow, and the text uses it in a number of different contexts (edible portions, as purchased portions, etc.)

Have you encountered an interesting visual mnemonic? I'd like to hear what you've encountered out in the 'wild'.

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