Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween Math Activities, Vol. 3: Monster Hands

I just have one more Halloween activity to share this year, but it's one of my all-time best.  Ask my daughter what it was like to grow up with a math teacher mother, and she'll undoubtedly recount stories of fun "games" that really turned out to be lessons in disguise-- but it didn't make them any less fun!  This is another one of those.

Monster Hands (or Witch Hands, if you prefer) is a fun and delicious activity to work on estimation with your students.  It also provides them with such a fun Halloween prop (a Monster Hand of their own!) that they may not even want to eat it!  Nothing wrong with a little less sugar intake on Halloween.  Remember, there is a difference between a guess and an estimate.  A guess is based on no previous experience or no applied strategy.  An estimate is based on number experiences or applied strategies.  It is difficult to tell when it is a guess or an estimate.

You'll need:
  • Lots of popped popcorn (I prefer kettle corn, but it doesn't make a difference)
  • 30 plastic see-through gloves (or one for each student in your class)
  • Candy corn
  • Ribbon
  • Bowls

Preparation begins!

Step One. Place bowls of popcorn and bowls of candy corn at clusters of desks-- no more than 4-5 children per station.  Pass out one plastic glove to each student.

Step Two.  Have students place one candy corn (tip facing outward) in each finger hole of the glove.  This serves as the Monster or Witch's "nail."

Step Three.  Ask students to write a guess for how many popcorn pieces it will take to stuff their glove.  Students should write down this number on a post-it and add to a classroom graph.  The teacher will make a graph of the guesses.

Step Four.  Students will count out five pieces of popcorn and hold them in the palm of their hands.  This is what five looks like!  Now it is time to estimate how many pieces will fill their whole hand.  Students write their estimate on a post-it.  The teacher will make a second graph of their estimates.  A discussion will follow about how the guesses compare with the estimates. 

Step Five.  Students stuff the gloves with the popcorn, counting each piece that they add and making sure that the glove isn't so inflated that it will explode.  (There's always one.)

Step Six.  Tie off the gloves and record each student's actual popcorn count next to their estimates.  Now there are three graphs (or if you'd rather, three columns)-- guesses, estimates, and actuals.  The student(s) closest to their estimation on all three wins a Halloween prize of some sort!

Finished witch hand!

There you go!  I love sharing a few of my favorite Halloween activities-- brings me back to the days of my own classroom and how much fun I had with my kiddos.  Let me know if you try or have tried any of these in your classroom!  I'd love to see!

Have a merry, scary Halloween!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Math Activities, Vol. 2: How Many Eyeballs?

One of my favorite parts of Halloween-- whether it was throwing parties for my daughter and her friends or transforming my classroom and lesson plans-- is how easy it is to repurpose everyday items into ghoulish goods.

If you don't already know the eyeball trick, or you DO know the eyeball trick and would like an idea for how to use it in your classroom, read on.

We used to host an annual Halloween party at my house when my daughter was growing up.  (These inevitably ended in pulling out the Ouija board and being interrupted by the "spirit" of a parent coming to pick up their son or daughter-- what fun!) One of the tricks that made me feel like super mom was peeling grapes to make Halloween "eyeballs."

Add a few crucial components and voila-- a perfect estimation Halloween tool!

In their pre-eyeball state
You'll need:
  • Lots of grapes
  • A bowl
  • Cardboard box with a hole


Step 1.  Peel the grapes so they're nice and slimy!  A tip to do this easily: boil the grapes for a few seconds, drain, and then submerge in cold water.  The skins will peel right off!  If you're feeling ambitious, you can even cut a raisin in half and use it as the iris.
Step 2.  Put all the "eyeballs" into a bowl and let students look at them so they can get a sense of the bowl.
Step 3.  Move bowl of "eyeballs" into the cardboard box.
Step 4.  Students get 15 seconds to feel around in the box of "eyeballs" to help their estimation.
Step 5.  Students record their answers for estimation on a classroom graph.  The student closest to the estimation without going over wins!  This can also be done as a team event!  Each group of four students will take turns estimating the eyeballs in the box.  The winner of each group would compete with the winners of all the other groups.

©moominmolly, Flickr Creative Commons

Enjoy!  I would suggest these grapes as a healthy snack for your class...but that might be going too far.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Halloween Math Activities, Vol. 1: Pumpkin Circumference

Anyone who knows me knows that I love holidays.  When I'm home, I love to decorate my house for whatever upcoming festivity is on the horizon-- be it Halloween, Valentine's Day, or Thanksgiving!  My classroom is no exception.

Halloween is one of my personal favorites!  As a teacher, it was always such great fun to transition my classroom into a spooky fright-fest (the level of "fright" involved directly correlated to which grade I happened to be teaching at the time).  I also found that it was a great way to incorporate lots of math activities that students might otherwise not find quite as fun.

In honor of my classrooms past and your classrooms present, I wanted to share a few Halloween math activities this year that my students and I used to love.  This is the first one, complete with supplies and pictures.

What do you think Mickey's circumference is?

You'll need:

  • 5 pumpkins of varying size and shape
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Markers
For this fun theme activity, you'll need five pumpkins of varying size.  Line them up in whatever order you want somewhere students can easily view them.  

Part One: each student takes a turn studying the pumpkins, and then, using scissors and string, cut a length of string that they think would go all the way around the pumpkin. (Incorporate "circumference" vocabulary if appropriate for your students.) Each student will make a small mark on this length of string to indicate that it is his or her "guesstimate" string.

Part Two: each student will actually measure around the pumpkins with the string lengths they have cut.  Was it greater than, equal to, or less than their first guesstimate?  Finish with a class graph for the results if you'd like!

Lots of pumpkins to choose from!

I love this activity because it is such a fun way to incorporate concepts of visual estimation and circumference.  It gives students an up close look at real-life application of circumference while still being a fun way to celebrate Halloween!

Stay tuned for a few more of my favorite Halloween activities!  I hope you have a fun one with your students-- drop me a line, I'd love to hear from you if you try this in your classroom!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Magic Fingers in Action

Happy fall!  It's been a roaring season so far for me-- I'm in the midst of a three week trip that spans the country-- we're currently in Nashville but we'll be headed to Atlanta soon and back to what is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots, El Paso, before we're home again.  It's been quite the long trip but a few things have been great-- it's always fun to make classroom visits or even to hear about them by proxy!  One of my favorite things is when someone emails me with an example of their kids using my materials.  It makes me feel like I never left my classroom-- my classroom just extends across the country!

Jessica Harris, from Wallingford, Connecticut, sent in these pictures of her students using my magic fingers of mathematics (thank you Jessica!).  I had the pleasure of visiting with Jessica and 200 other teachers in Connecticut in May.  It was a wonderful visit and I hope to be going back soon-- especially now that I get to see Jessica in action!  Magic Fingers are great fun in the classroom, but more importantly, they're great for tracking and imprinting in both math and language arts.  They're very versatile-- students will love to use them for reading AND skip counting!  They can't get enough of the fingers, and it couldn't be more timely for Halloween at the end of the month.

In the pictures, you can see the students doing some of my favorite activities with the fingers.  This is such a simple activity that reinforces counting and number properties for students, and they love it-- they love pretty much every activity with the fingers!  I turn on Ron Brown's Random Number CD and have students track numbers that they hear as he says them.  Although this is an activity geared towards younger learners, don't underestimate it's power to reinforce number recognition.

One tip for using the Magic Fingers in your classroom: I like to give students 5 minutes at the beginning of the school year to "get all the giggles out."  I make it very clear that any time spent messing around with the fingers after these five minutes will result in the loss of all finger magical properties, and fingers themselves, and this is usually enough to keep kids focused for the rest of the school year.  That way I don't have to be constantly battling Witch Finger Fun-itis!

I hope you're enjoying this lovely October.  I'm off to fun in El Paso with Barb Novelli and Paul Agranoff and finishing up this trip in beautiful Seattle!  I hope to see you soon!


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