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A Lunch-In Affair

  • Lesson
Number and Operations
Location: Unknown

Students organize and prepare a luncheon for the entire class. Working in committees, each group of students is responsible for a different aspect of the event.

The first time this activity is initiated, regardless of grade level, the teacher should suggest a menu that school facilities, teachers, and parental resources can support. The menu discussed includes sloppy-joe sandwiches, gelatin, chips, a brownie, and fruit beverage.

818 menu

Consider the student committees and their various responsibilities. Make a committee list to give to each student. Seven committees are suggested, one for each of the foods to be prepared, as well as a settings committee (responsible for serving-table layout, place settings, and paper products), and a money committee responsible for food orders, collecting money, and keeping all financial records.

Select several possible dates for the lunch so students can select the exact day that will work best for all.

Schedule the various activities. Some foods can be made in advance and frozen. Include the removal-from-freezer dates and time, as well as reporting dates for committee decisions regarding pricing foods and paper goods.

Preparing for the Event 

Initial discussion with the class should include duties of each committee. All committees (except the money committee) should be responsible for comparative shopping and calculating an appropriate per-serving cost of items for which they're responsible.

Determine which students will work on which committees, assign activity-report dates, list utensils and equipment to be borrowed from parents, and ask for adult assistance when needed.

The teacher should make certain that all recipes, utensils, facilities, and serving means will be available as needed, possibly with some adult assistance. Determine whether the comparison-shopping and follow-up approximations for food and serving costs are appropriate. Food committees should give their reports, indicating the size of the servings. Menus can be distributed along with ordering slips. Teachers may wish to limit the number of servings of chips and brownies ordered by a student. Give a date for submitting paid orders. Let the money committee be responsible for collecting and checking accuracy of all orders.

818 lunch tray

The money committee should indicate the total number of each menu item ordered and the amount of money available to each committee to cover purchases. Make decisions regarding purchase of food and paper goods. Decide on the cost of each menu item and complete the menu on the Lunch‑In Affair Activity Sheet.

pdficonLunch‑In Affair Activity Sheet 

Students take orders using the order form then tally the orders to determine how much food should be ordered. Money is collected and the food is purchased.

Lunch-In Day 

Almost all of the work has been completed by now. The committee chairpersons should assist the teacher in seeing that all activities are carried out as planned. This time should be used by the teacher to note changes that should be made to improve the project.


Brumfield, Emalou and John Firkins. "Ideas." Arithmetic Teacher 41 (February 1994): 309-316.


  1. Prepare the luncheon for another class in your building.
  2. Change the menu. Include vegetables or add fruit to the gelatin or nuts and frosting to the brownies.

Teacher Reflection 

  • Suggestions for improving this project should be invited and encouraged from each committee, the class as a whole, and the adults who have assisted. 

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Use problem solving skills, measuring techniques, and food preparation experiences to practice various math concepts.
  • Apply previous learning to decision making that involves purchasing and preparing at least a five-item menu.
  • Share the cost of the meal among class members proportionate to the amount of food ordered by each member.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Understand and use ratios and proportions to represent quantitative relationship.
  • Use factors, multiples, prime factorization, and relatively prime numbers to solve problems.

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

Grade 7, The Number System

  • CCSS.Math.Content.7.NS.A.3
    Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving the four operations with rational numbers.

Grade 7, Expression/Equation

  • CCSS.Math.Content.7.EE.B.3
    Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals), using tools strategically. Apply properties of operations to calculate with numbers in any form; convert between forms as appropriate; and assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies. For example: If a woman making $25 an hour gets a 10% raise, she will make an additional 1/10 of her salary an hour, or $2.50, for a new salary of $27.50. If you want to place a towel bar 9 3/4 inches long in the center of a door that is 27 1/2 inches wide, you will need to place the bar about 9 inches from each edge; this estimate can be used as a check on the exact computation.

Grade 6, The Number System

  • CCSS.Math.Content.6.NS.B.3
    Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation.

Common Core State Standards – Practice

  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP2
    Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP6
    Attend to precision.