Global Education

Teacher resources to encourage a global
perspective across the curriculum

Probability and pancakes

Year level: 3-4

Students read Mama Panya's Pancakes to gain insights into other ways of life and explore probability, fractions and measurement.

A woman bakes flat bread on a fuel efficient stove in Tilonia in north-east India.

A woman bakes flat bread on a fuel efficient stove in Tilonia in north-east India. Photo © Albrecht G. Schaefer/CORBIS

Identity and cultural diversity, Interdependence and globalisation, Sustainable futures

Australian Curriculum links

Learning areas


Year 3

Model and represent unit fractions including ½, ¼, ⅓, ⅕ and their multiples to a complete whole (ACMNA058)

Represent money values in multiple ways and count the change required for simple transactions to the nearest five cents (ACMNA059)

Measure, order and compare objects using familiar metric units of length, mass and capacity (ACMMG061)

Create and interpret simple grid maps to show position and pathways (ACMMG065)

Year 4

Describe possible everyday events and order their chances of occurring. (ACMSP092)

Solve problems involving purchases and the calculation of change to the nearest five cents with and without digital technologies (ACMNA080)

Use simple scales, legends and directions to interpret information contained in basic maps (ACMMG090)


Year 3

Represent the location of places and their features by constructing large-scale maps that conform to cartographic conventions including scale, legend, title and north point, and describe their location using simple grid references, compass direction and distance (ACHGS022)

Year 4

The location of the major countries of Africa and South America in relation to Australia, and their main characteristics, including the types of natural vegetation and native animals in at least two countries from both continents. (ACHGK020)


Year 3

Discuss texts in which characters, events and settings are portrayed in different ways, and speculate on the authors' reasons (ACELT1594)

Year 4

Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning to expand content knowledge, integrating and linking ideas and analysing and evaluating texts. (ACELY1692)

General capabilities

  • literacy
  • numeracy
  • critical and creative thinking
  • intercultural understanding

Activity 1: Possibly, possibly not

Students deepen understanding of the meaning of probability.

List and define words related to probability (eg likely, unlikely, certain, impossible, etc).

Consider the likelihood of each of the following events:

  • The sun will come up in the morning.
  • It will rain tomorrow.
  • Our school will win the interschool sports carnival this year.
  • My favourite band will perform a concert at our school next week.

Discuss: What information did you use to decide the probability of each event?

Organise the statements in order from least likely to most likely. (This could be done by having a student represent each statement. The rest of the class can line up the representing students in order.)

Discuss the reasons for the final order.

Activity 2: Mama Panya's Pancakes

Students read Mama Panya's Pancakes. They note how the authors have developed the story and investigate the probability of different events.


  • Mama Panya's Pancakes written by Mary and Rich Chamberlin and illustrated by Julia Cairns (2005)
  • World map

Introduce the story Mama Panya's Pancakes.

Locate Kenya on a map.

  • What is the capital?
  • How far is it from where you live?

Share what you know about Kenya and what you would like to find out.
Record your responses for review later.

Read the story and stop at various points.
Make some predictions about what will happen next.
Order the predictions from least likely to most likely using information and clues at that stage of the story.

Useful places to stop in the story are:

  • after Adika asks how many pancakes Mama will make, on the way to market
  • after Adika invites Sawandi and Naiman to come for pancakes
  • after Mama stirs in all the flour as she cooks the pancakes.


  • What is difficult about working out how likely something is?
  • Did some events surprise you in the book? Discuss unexpected things that have happened in your life.
  • What do you think Mama Panya learned in this story?
  • What techniques and images did the author and illustrator use to keep readers interested in the story?
  • What did you learn about Kenya from the story?
  • Do you think everyone in Kenya lives like Mama Panya and Adika? How can you find out? 

Activity 3: Mapping the journey

Students create a map of the route taken by Adika, conforming to cartographic conventions.


  • Drawing materials

Draw a map showing the places featured in the story. Include a north marker, legend, title and grid lines.

Mark the map with your version of Adika's journey. (This will be different to other people's because, for example, we know that they walk around a corner or along a river but we don't know which way.)

Describe the journey using north, south etc. State the grid references for the key points in the story.


Add scale and distances. (This might require a new map.)


Activity 4: How much and how many?

Students examine numerical information in Mama Panya's Pancakes.


  • Mama Panya's Pancakes written by Mary and Rich Chamberlin and illustrated by Julia Cairns (2005)
  • Supermarket price list
  • Ingredients and utensils for cooking pancakes

Read Mama Panya's Pancakes.


  • What do you think Mama Panya meant by 'a little bit and a little bit more'?
  • Why did Adika invite the people for dinner?
  • Why did Mama Panya try to stop Adika from inviting people for dinner?
  • How many people do you think Mama Panya thought would be too many?

Calculate how much Mama Panya may have had if she had two Australian coins (36 possibilities).

the recipe for pancakes at the back of the book.

the supermarket prices for the ingredients and calculate the cost of buying all the ingredients required.

the following questions:

  • What coin or note would you need to pay for these items?
  • What is the smallest amount of flour you can buy?
  • How many cups is this amount?
  • Will you use the full quantity of all the ingredients to make the pancakes if you follow the recipe?

Predict how many pancakes you will be able to make using the recipe.

how many pancakes you could make if you doubled the mixture.

how many pancakes you could make if you could only afford half the amount of flour.

the pancakes and see how close your predictions were.

a pancake between two, three, four and five people.

the fractions. Will you get more or less when you share with more people?


Make some comparisons about the size of Kenya and Australia (eg area, population, highest point, coastline, vegetation, native animals).

Activity 5: Pancake, chapati and bao bing

Students learn about pancakes in a number of countries.


  • Recipes of pancakes from around the world


Compare making pancakes where you live with what happens in Mama Panya's Pancakes.


  • When do you eat pancakes?
  • Who makes them?
  • How do you get the ingredients?

Use a map of the world and the list at the back of Mama Panya's Pancakes to write the names of the different pancakes on the relevant countries.

a recipe for each of these types of pancake.

  • What are the similarities and differences between these pancakes?
  • Why might pancakes be a food eaten in many places?


Write a song and dance to celebrate friendship.
Use the language list from Mama Panya's Pancakes to greet others.
Source: One World Centre, Perth 

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A woman bakes flat bread on a fuel efficient stove in Tilonia in north-east India.
Photo © Albrecht G. Schaefer/CORBIS
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A woman bakes flat bread on a fuel efficient stove in Tilonia in north-east India. Photo © Albrecht G. Schaefer/CORBIS