Math is a chief ingredient in the kitchen, and those who make a living creating the sweets many of us crave during the holidays depend on calculations every day.

Nicole Varrenti is the chief candy maker and owner of Nicole’s Treats. Like many artisans of all kinds, she makes small batches by hand and ships to buyers all over the world through her Etsy shop.  Here’s how she uses math in her job.

Can you explain your job?

I hand make Belgian chocolate candy and other edible treats like granola, spoon fudge, and caramel sauce. I opened my Etsy shop in August 2008, but I have been making candy for more than 20 years.

When do you use basic math in your job?  

I use math DAILY! I need to measure ingredients for my treat recipes and weigh my products to ensure my customers receive the amount of product they ordered. I measure and weigh boxes to prepare them for shipment. Also, I triple check all my orders to make sure all amounts, charges and weights are correct. From start to finish, on one order, I use math at least five times.

Do you use any technology to help with this math? 

Of course I use old-fashioned measuring cups to measure ingredients, and a scale to weigh ingredients and packages. I use a calculator to calculate the price of my products and a computer is very useful to store spreadsheets so I can keep track of all my sales, purchases, expenses, shipping costs, etc.

Math helps to keep my business organized so I can see how I am doing on a daily basis. Without math I would be lost and would not know how my business is performing.

How comfortable with math do you feel?  

Math has never been my strong suit; in fact I had a math tutor for many years while I was in middle and high school, when I took algebra, calculus and geometry. However, since I use math on a daily basis I am comfortable with math and in my skills now.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? 

All of the math I learned in school has played a role in my job at some point or another. Sometimes I have had to re-learn certain math skills or just refresh my memory by practicing a bit. The only new skill I would say I had to learn was some basic accounting since I never took an accounting class.

Nicole’s blog has gorgeous, mouthwatering photos of sweets, plus free recipes.  Visit! But first, if you have questions for her, ask them in the comments section.

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