Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Homeschool Math: Graphing Candy

There's a lot to cover with fractions, decimals, and percents, but fortunately, since they're all ways of representing the parts of a whole, your kiddos can review all of them together.

For our hands-on math enrichment lesson one day, my goal was to show the kids concrete representations of fractions, decimals, and percents, to have them practice the conversions, and to let them explore how they can model these relationships.

If that sounds dry (and it does), then let me explain to you that it was actually super fun, on account of...


We went to the grocery store and picked out several small bags of assorted candies, the kind that naturally come in various colors or flavors. I was surprised that it was impossible to find the small bags of M&Ms that I remember from the checkout aisle as a kid, but we ended up happy enough with Mike & Ikes, Reese's Pieces, Sour Patch Kids, and Sweet Tarts.

I bought a package of each for each kid, because I also thought that it would be interesting to compare each kid's results.

After I had made each kid promise not to eat any candy until they'd finished counting, I gave the kids their various little boxes and bags of candy and lots of little dishes. For each candy, each kid had to do the following:

  1. Count the total number of pieces of candy in the package.
  2. Count the total number of each kind of candy.
  3. Calculate, for each kind, the fraction, decimal, and percentage of that kind to the total number of pieces.
  4. Create a pie chart to represent the relationships between the candies.
Here is the page of Will's calculations. She doesn't have the neatest handwriting, but at least, after years of nagging, it is at last legible... to her:

And here are their pie charts!

I was interested to see that the ratios between each type of candy didn't remain consistent between the two packages that the kids studied, in any candy that they studied.

If we did this again, I'd make a chart ahead of time for the kids to record their results before graphing, and make it clear that I expected organized results that everyone, not just the kid recording the results, could read.

Extension activities that I'd also consider the next time:

  • Use the leftover candy for candy science experiments. There are a ton online, invented in large part by parents desperate to use up Halloween candy, but they're all pretty cool.
  • Or use the leftover candy for baking or decorating. Most of the candy that we used would taste good in cookies or brownies.
  • Buy several packages of one candy, graph them all, then use the results to calculate an average of each type of candy in the mix. This would make a good STEM Fair project.
  • Have the kids write up their results in an essay.
The kids LOVED this activity, and were super invested in the process. Sure, it made for a sugar-filled day and evening, but it was a small price to pay for such intense math practice, conducted fuss-free!

Here are some other fun ways to play with fractions, decimals, and percents:

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