National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix


Milk Makin' Math

Grade Level(s)

3 - 5

Estimated Time

70 minutes


In this lesson, students will learn about the numerous career opportunities involved in the dairy industry. They will also practice real world math problems related to specific careers within the industry. 


  • "Milk Makin' Math" Activity Book for each student
  • Large piece of paper & markers for each group
  • One-dollar bill
  • Checkbook or sample of a check
  • One or more photos showing the inside of a milk barn
  • Feed Samples (optional)
  • Syringe with needle removed
  • Digital Scale
  • Gallon of milk

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


accountant: an accountant keeps records of business-related financial transactions. They record business expenses and calculate the profit earned.

dairy farmer: a farmer who specializes in raising dairy cattle, specifically for milk and/or cheese products

dairy nutritionist: an animal health professional who specializes in the nutritional needs of dairy cows. Nutritionists recommend the best diets for cows and monitor how cows respond to their feeding program.

marketing manager: a marketing manager advertises, promotes and sells milk to distributors, processing plants, and, eventually, to the public

safety inspector: a safety inspector helps prevent harm to workers, property, the environment and the general public. Safety inspectors make sure the dairy products we consume are safe and healthy to eat. They also make sure the food we eat is free from germs and stored at the correct temperature.

veterinarian: a doctor who treats animals

Background Agricultural Connections

This lesson is part of a series called, Milk Matters: Discovering Dairy. These lessons introduce students to the history, production, nutritional value and economic significance of the dairy industry. Other related lessons include:

Dairy careers require a variety of skills, including skills in science, technology, reading, writing and mathematics. This lesson features real-life math challenges that individuals working in the dairy industry face everyday. Students will make important connections between the math problems completed in school and the math skills essential to employment. Students will study the career fields of a safety inspector, marketing manager, accountant, veterinarian, and dairy nutritionist.

More background information on the dairy industry can be found here.

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. Draw! Give students markers and a large white sheet of paper, and three minutes to brainstorm dairy-related careers. Working in groups, students draw as many images as possible representing careers found on a dairy.
  2. Encourage students to share their drawings with the entire class. Create a master list of careers on the board and brainstorm important skills these individuals need to be successful with their jobs.
  3. Discuss and emphasize how math skills are essential for all jobs, including work on a dairy.


  • For this lesson, groups of students (determined by the teacher) will rotate between six different learning stations. Each station should be set up with one table and chairs for each student in the group. Each station will focus on a different dairy career. Students will move around the room, completing math challenges found in each student’s “Milk Makin’ Math” Activity Book. 

Set up each of the stations as follows:

Station 1: Dairy Nutritionist
Visual: Samples of hay, dairy feed components. With each sample, include a label and definition.

Station 2: Dairy Farmer
Visual: One or more photos showing the inside of a milking barn.

Station 3: Veterinarian
Visual: A syringe with the needle removed.

Station 4: Accountant
Visual: A checkbook to represent expenses and a dollar to represent profit. Using index cards, define and label each as profit or expense.

Station 5: Safety Inspector
Visual: A large weather thermometer that shows temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

Station 6: Marketing Manager
Visual: Place one gallon of milk on a digital scale.

  • Instruct students who complete stations early to illustrate the cover of their activity book.
  • Review the answers to the problems with the entire class. Conclude the lesson with a class discussion on:
    • What are your impressions on the amount of math needed to be successful in your career?
    • Which career would you enjoy most? Why?
    • Which job is the most difficult? Why?
    • Which job is the easiest? Why?
  • On an index card, students write down one fact they learned about one of the possible dairy careers. Students will use this “ticket” to be excused for lunch, recess or a nutrition break. 

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

After conducting the following activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • There are many careers related to dairy farming.
  • Agriculture is responsible for producing the most important necessities for daily living including food, fiber, and shelter.
  • Dairy farms produce milk, but they also provide many different jobs.


  • Students move around the stations in pairs. Students complete each math challenge together.
  • Students create a dairy “passport.” With each completed station, they receive a stamp to show their success.
  • Students complete a KWL chart to begin the lesson. 

We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!


Enriching Activities

  • Invite individuals representing dairy careers to sit on a panel for the class. Students have the opportunity to learn about each of the careers by asking questions of each guest speaker.

  • Invite individuals from each dairy career to monitor activity stations.

  • Students work in groups to research each dairy career. This activity may include interviewing employees in the industry, researching online or role-playing job responsibilities.

  • Visit the Interactive Map Project website and view the Dairy Cattle Inventory map. As a class identify the highest milk producing states and discuss the factors which could contribute to the success of dairy farms such as climate, open space, etc. Identify where your state ranks in dairy cattle production and discuss the factors contributing to the statistic.

Suggested Companion Resources

Agricultural Literacy Outcomes

Culture, Society, Economy & Geography

  • Explain the value of agriculture and how it is important in daily life. (T5.3-5.d)

Food, Health, and Lifestyle

  • Identify careers in food, nutrition, and health (T3.3-5.f)

Education Content Standards


Economics Standard 7: Markets and Prices

  • Objective
    Identify markets in which they have participated as a buyer and as a seller and describe how the interaction of all buyers and sellers influences prices. Also, predict how prices change when there is either a shortage or surplus of the product available.


4-LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

  • 4-LS1-1
    Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
  • 4-LS1-2
    Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.

5-ESS3: Earth and Human Activity

  • 5-ESS3-1
    Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.

5-PS3: Energy

  • 5-PS3-1
    Use models to describe that energy in animals' food (used for body repair, growth, and motion and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.

Common Core Connections

Reading: Anchor Standards

    Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards

    Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Language: Anchor Standards

    Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.

Writing: Anchor Standards

    Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Mathematics: Practice Standards

    Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. Students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary. Students check their answers to problems using a different method, and they continually ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” They can understand the approaches of others to solving complex problems and identify correspondences between different approaches.
    Reason abstractly and quantitatively. Students make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations. They bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems involving quantitative relationships: the ability to decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically and manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own, without necessarily attending to their referents—and the ability to contextualize, to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved. Quantitative reasoning entails habits of creating a coherent representation of the problem at hand; considering the units involved; attending to the meaning of quantities, not just how to compute them; and knowing and flexibly using different properties of operations and objects.
    Use appropriate tools strategically. Students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Students at various grade levels are able to identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content located on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems. They are able to use technological tools to explore and deepen their understandings of concepts.
    Attend to precision. Students try to communicate precisely to others. They try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning. They state the meaning of the symbols they choose, including using the equal sign consistently and appropriately. They are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem context.


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