Five Spooktacular Ways to Teach Math Using Halloween Treats

shutterstock_152698421Ask any kid what’s the best part of Halloween and you’re likely to get the same response: the candy! Who can blame them? A bag of bite-sized chocolates is hard to beat. But Halloween treats can amount to more than a sugar high. They’re also a great way to teach kids mouth-watering math skills.

1.  Estimating the Loot
Estimation is a key math tool that helps us make a reasonable judgment about an amount, size or result. We also use it in everyday life to determine the number of people in a room, the speed of a car or the distance to the park.

Exercise: Empty your child’s trick-or-treat bag on the table and ask him or her to estimate the number of candy pieces. Then, have your child count each piece to learn how close the estimate came to the actual result. Remember, the key to estimating is to make a reasonable judgment, so don’t let your child count or calculate an exact answer. Close estimates earn a piece of candy!

Ages: Pre-K to Grade 1
Lessons: estimation, counting

2.  Sorting the Sugar (and Comparing the Candy)
Young children love to group and sort. It’s the foundation for organizing data, a skill they’ll need to solve problems later on.

Exercise: Ask your child to sort his or her candy into three groups. (Stick with two groups for younger kids.) Then, ask him or her to identify which attributes the candy in each group share (size, texture, whether they contain chocolate, etc.). Ask other questions, such as: “Which group has more pieces of candy? How many pieces make up each group?”

Ages: Pre-K to Grade 1
Lessons: sorting, comparing, counting

3.  Developing Delicious Number Sense
Once young children learn to recite numbers, the next step is to understand that number words correspond to a number of things…like pieces of candy!

Exercise: Using a permanent marker, label 10 clear plastic sandwich bags with the numerals 1–10. Draw a corresponding number of dots on each bag to represent the quantity. Then, have your child fill each bag with the corresponding number of candies. For added challenge, scramble the filled bags and ask your child to re-order them from least to greatest.

Ages: Pre-K to Grade 1
Lessons: number sense, counting, ordering

4. Addition and Eating (aka Subtraction)
In the past, kids used to endlessly memorize addition and subtraction tables. But today’s teachers know that an understanding of adding and taking away is more beneficial than reciting a math fact.

Exercise: Have a pile of Halloween candy on hand. Put three pieces in front of you. Then, tell your child to “give me 5”—giving you enough pieces of candy so your pile contains a total of five pieces. Ask your child to count how many pieces he or she gave you (in this example, you should have been given two more pieces). Repeat the game, starting with a different number of candies. Or, reverse the play, so your child can tell you to “give me 5!”

Ages: Pre-K to Grade 1
Lessons: addition, subtraction

5.  The Sweet Shoppe
Counting money and buying goods are two important skills that will help your child in everyday life.

Exercise: Label three empty glass jars with different monetary amounts, such as $0.10, $0.15 and $0.50. Separate your child’s candy into each jar and give him or her an assortment of nickels, dimes, and quarters. Ask your child to count the money. Then, have him or her use it to buy pieces of candy.

Ages: Grades 2 and 3
Lessons: counting money, multi-digit addition and subtraction

For other great ways to learn math, check out Hot Dots® Let’s Master Math Sets.

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