End of the Year Candy Math May 24 2010
Candy is my friend. I love it so.
I have a terrible sweet tooth, and I have to carefully monitor my candy intake so I don't eat too much of it and so I can be a good example to my kids. I have, however, found that I use more candy for carefully selected bribe-worthy events. I decided years ago to try and use candy for a fun math activity, well-timed for the end of the school year.
I usually use M&M or Skittles for this activity because they come in individual packages. Any candy that's prepackaged would be appropriate for this activity in order to compare the packages as consumers, which is also interesting for the kids. If you have leftover boxes of conversation hearts from Valentine's Day, now would be a good time to use them.
Individual packages of candy cost money, so I like to find out if any parents of the kids in my class can get it donated. Another strategy is to collect $.50 or $1 from kids who are able to donate toward this project to help offset the cost. In years past, I've also partnered kids up and had them share an individual bag of candy between them instead of buying one for each student.
There are some very basic but important Ground Rules for this activity, and it would be wise to spend some time reviewing them with your class:
- DO NOT EAT THE CANDY! This seems counter-intuitive, I know. But if they eat the candy, then they won't be able to finish their assignments.
- No sharing or trading candy! Accurate numbers are needed to complete the project, and sharing or trading skews the numbers.
- DO NOT EAT THE CANDY! (this deserves to be repeated)
Once the Ground Rules are laid, point out on the Candy Math sheet that students first must predict how many pieces of candy are in the package before opening it. This reinforces estimation as a math skill and fits into the bigger picture later in the lesson.
The kinds of activities included in this project depend on the level appropriate for your kids. I have made two versions of this activity: the Candy Math - Easier Version for younger kids and the Candy Math - Advanced Version for older kids. Included in both levels but different forms are skills that review and reinforce sorting, counting, comparing, and graphing. The Advanced Version deals with finding the average, making fractions and changing them to percents.
Either sheet will require a little review and support, and I've found that it helps keeps students on task to have each person fill one out even if they are partnered up. And on both sheets, number ten is to finally EAT THE CANDY!
The Bigger Picture
A larger classroom observation can be made during this project, putting kids in the point of view of consumers. After predicting and counting the number of pieces per package, take a poll of each student's number of candies and write them in a graph on a large piece of butcher paper at the front of your class.
At the end of the project, lead a class discussion about the findings. Did all of the packages have the same amount of candy? Why or why not? Where there equal amounts of the different colors? Did one color stand out as being the most for each person or package? What other observations did your students make during this exploration?
While your holding this discussion, your kids will have to answer by speaking around their mouthfuls of candy. Just don't forget to save a package for yourself!