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Category: Data Analysis and Probability

Building Math Skills with Halloween Candy

Building Math Skills with Halloween Candy

Halloween candy seems like an unusual place to find math. But, it turns out, there are some great skill-building activities that can be done with these yummy treats….all in the context of something kids love – candy!

Here are four fun and educational post-trick-or-treating activities:


Have your child place all their candy in a pile. Ask her to sort the candy into groups. As she is sorting, ask her why she chose the groups she did. Then see if she can sort them another way. This is a building block to algebraic thinking as kids look for specific attributes that define each group.


Once your child has sorted her candy, organize them into rows. Then count how many there are in each group. Help her write the number down on a small piece of paper or sticky note and label each group with its number. When all groups have been labeled, ask questions such as Which group has the most? Which group has the least? How many more Skittles are there than Milk Duds? How many more Kit Kats would you need to have the same number of Hersheys? Have your child help you order the sticky note numbers from smallest to greatest.


Discuss the different shapes you see in each piece of candy. For example, candy corn looks like a triangle, Whoppers look like spheres, and a Kit Kat bar is made up of rectangles.


Similar to organizing the candy into rows like we did above, your child will be using graph paper to turn those rows into a bar graph. The graph in the photo reflects vertical bars but you can also make the bars horizontal. Decide if you want to go big and graph all their candy, or keep it smaller and graph one small bag of a candy like Skittles or M&Ms.

And, finally, subtraction! If I have six Milky Ways and I eat them all, what’s left? …a very upset tummy.

Happy Halloween!



Data Analysis and Problem-Solving in Second Grade

Data Analysis and Problem-Solving in Second Grade

What a treat it was for me to work with two second graders yesterday in Mrs. Durbin’s class. Mrs. Durbin created a fun project for these two high math students to provide them with extra challenge. I’m there to help facilitate them while she teaches the rest of the class.

When I arrived for my first session with them last week, they had already collected their data. Their chosen topic was sports equipment in the primary grades. They wanted to find out how many soccer balls, jump ropes, etc. each primary classroom has. I entered the scene at the point of organizing the data. It didn’t take them long to figure out they wanted to display the data using a bar graph.

What was fun was helping them figure out how to show 28 jump ropes when their graph paper was only 20 boxes high. “Do you have to go by ones?” I asked after they began discussing continuing the bar on the back of the paper. The lightbulb went on and they decided that going by twos would work just fine. They had to stop and think again when I asked them to show me how to represent 5 kick balls.

But yesterday was a really fun day because I got to see them think at a pretty high level. Here’s how it happened. They wanted to make their title colorful. So they chose 6 pencils of different colors and counted out the number of letters in the title which was 15. They were hoping to use each color the same number of times. “Hmmm…” started one of them, “18 is too high. We’ll need to take a pencil away. Yeah, that would work.”

I was quickly recording his words so I wouldn’t forget and then asked, “How did you arrive at that?”

“Well, I counted 6, 12, 18 and 18 is too many. So if we took one pencil away, it would be 5, 10, 15 and that would work.”

“Wow. You’re counting in multiples of 5 and 6,” I said to reinforce the vocabulary word ‘multiples’. Then I asked him how many times they would use each color and he quickly responded with three.

That’s an example of great thinking and great problem-solving. I was pretty impressed. Given the opportunity, it’s amazing what students can do. As teachers, we need to be on the lookout for good problems that allow students to think on a deeper level. This helps build their confidence in their ability to do math. And it makes math interesting. And fun.

Note: It turned out they added 3 letters to their title and ended up with 18 letters. They went back to the original 6 pencils.

Jeopardy in the Elementary Math Classroom

Jeopardy in the Elementary Math Classroom
Just finished a unit and want your students to review what they learned? Getting ready for the chapter test? Just want to have fun? Jeopardy is a great way to review and reinforce what students have been learning.

This photo shows some of the categories I use in the primary grades. The ones at the bottom show additional categories. Pretty much anything you’ve been learning can work.

The students in my classroom are already set up in groups of 4-5. These are the groups they’ll work with to play the game. The rules are pretty simple: Students work with their group to answer the question and earn the points. The team at the end with the most points is the winning team.

If a team gets the answer wrong, it goes to the next team. If this next team gets the answer correct, they earn the points. If they don’t, then it keeps going around until all teams have had a chance to answer. Regardless of who ends up getting the correct answer, the play resumes in order.

Some tips:
-So that each student gets a chance to choose a category and number of points, I number the students. On the first round, student #1 chooses the category and points and, after the team has all agreed on the answer, announces the answer. On the second round, student #2 chooses….and so on.
-I tell teams to use whispers as they work to solve the problem. Not only does this help keep the noise level down, but it minimizes the chance of another team “stealing” their answer.