Who doesn’t love to guess the weight of a pumpkin? It’s a wonderful Halloween math game for your children–and you!
We know that the best mathematics for kids is fun and engaging. Math is a developmental subject, which means that brain growth continues throughout childhood. Enriched experience and mixing lots of math practice into life helps children become more capable and confident mathematicians.
In October Halloween math opportunities abound. How many apples in a bag? How many mini pumpkins in a pound? Are there tens or hundreds of seeds inside a pumpkin?
Think about ways to practice Halloween mathematics with kids at home, in the car, or at a fair. Below, enjoy this video of winners at the Topsfield (MA) Fair Giant Pumpkin Contest, courtesy of The Boston Globe.
When I heard that today was National Fudge Day, I dug out my grandmother’s recipe book to find “Fudge Without Cooking.” Grammy reused and recycled many things, including two pieces of plywood from her friend Mrs. Bagelmann’s husband, a pharmacist. Inside, she handwrote, typed, or taped recipes on stiff manila cardboard pages.
Following a fudge recipe with children creates the perfect opportunity for practicing math skills. It’s a great way for students to help build confidence using math. Recipes involve other skills, too, like reading, comprehension, vocabulary, planning strategies to solve problems, thinking, rethinking, timing, and lots of measurement and estimation.
Plus, it’s fun to hear students hypothesize about why a potato is in the fudge.
Approach using this recipe any way you wish. I’d probably provide the ingredients, tools, and a microwave and tell a small group of students that I had faith in their ability to figure it out. Then, I’d assess them along the way.
For others who prefer to take it step by step, consider this approach:
1. Students read the recipe. Ask “What ingredients do you need and how much of each? What is your plan to obtain them?”
2. Student read the list of ingredients. Ask “What units of measurement are used in this recipe? What tools will you need? How is unsweetened chocolate different from a candy bar? How many potatoes do you estimate make 1/3 cup?”
3. Students explain the tasks that the verbs indicate, including if they need tools to complete them. Ask them about melt, blend, mix, sift, add, knead, turn out, press.
(I encourage teachers, parents, or grandparents to let the child talk more than you do. It’s easy to jump in and tell the answer, but don’t. The best hands-on learning lets students discover on their own.)
Continue and release the responsibilities as much as you can. Click on the recipe to enlarge it.
This recipe was originally printed in Parade magazine, in 1971 or 1972. The Parade Food Editor was Beth Merriman and the photo was by Walter Strelnick.
Our daily conversations are full of fractions and estimation:
I’m half way there…The project is 75% complete…About a quarter of a piece
That’s why it’s important to thread these skills into teaching whenever possible. And since this Friday, May 15, is National Pizza Party Day, pull out all the stops!
Remember math worksheets with pictures of pizza showing how ¼ + ¼ = ½ ? Without a visual, it’s hard for some students to understand that when they add fractions, the piece gets bigger but the denominators get smaller.
This isn’t just for young children, either. I’ve known many students who needed the help of visuals and manipulatives right into high school. Providing these aids is not babyish, nor is it some kind of crutch, nor should it be shaming. Knowing that you need tools to help solve a problem is smart.
When you have a pizza party math lesson, it’s an interdisciplinary feast! Allow students to make the dough and choose their own combinations and amounts of toppings.
Next, students write out the recipe using fractions and demonstrate making their pizza, explaining their math along the way. You might even have a taste testing to choose the most delicious variations.
There you have it. Common Core math and English language arts, plus a built-in assessment.