A Bag of Tricks...and Treats!

Halloween is an exciting time, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all costumes and cavities. As parents we can harness the energy kids have towards Halloween and use it as an opportunity to deepen understanding of math concepts and encourage logical and mathematical thinking in everyday life.

Making triangles out of candy corn is a super fun way to play and learn!

Making triangles out of candy corn is a super fun way to play and learn!

By: Maryrose Gray

As a teacher I remember feeling like kids were distracted the whole week around Halloween. The more I tried to redirect away from this excitement, the less successful I was.  So in the spirit of embracing the Halloween cheer, here are some ideas for generating even more excitement, while putting a mathematical spin on the conversation.

We tried making a candy corn Sierpinski's triangle that we found on this site. My four year old really enjoyed the video of how to make it, and we ended up with a much smaller version. The activity led to making different kinds of triangles with the candy corn and candy corn "people" standing around the triangles, which was actually my daughter's favorite part.

You never really know where a child is going to take a certain activity. This kind of problem-solving is a great way to anchor the concepts of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing without kids catching on that they are actually doing math. Plus, did I mention this is all about strategies for getting candy? There were definitely a few moments where my daughter tried to sneak an extra candy corn without me noticing.

Since Halloween is such an exciting time for children, you might be able to squeeze some extra mathematical questions into the conversation as you go door-to-door and see if your child gets into the discussion.  Or, you could spend a few minutes and make a map or draw a diagram of your route. This could also be a fun time to set candy goals. Yes, that’s right, candy goals.

Questions like, if I want 20 pieces of candy, how many streets do I have to walk down? How long will it take to go to each house, to make it around the block, to eat all of my candy?! How many pieces of candy are in a handful!?   

Then there’s the post party or trick-or-treating scene, which is full of opportunities to play math. Counting, sorting and estimating, here are some ideas of simple games to play with the kiddos while you examine their loot.

  • How many pieces do I have? Estimate based on how many houses you went to (or how many times you said “Trick-or-Treat” and “Thank You!”) and then count and compare the actual amount to your estimation.  
  • Candy Trade-Game. Engage in a barter and trade exercise with your child. For instance, you might suggest, “I’ll trade you this candy bar for that candy bar.” Or work together to figure out fair trades like 1 big Snickers equals 2 medium Snickers or 4 small Snickers. Ask questions that help them start to see that more quantity of something isn’t necessarily more volume.  

  • A Foot of Candy. How many pieces equal, say, 12 inches of candy?

  • Tower of Candy. Think the game Jenga. Stack and build.

If Trick-or-Treating is not your jam or you are looking for alternative approaches, we’ve got a few suggestions. Want some ideas on what to do with some of your candy AND teach a valuable lesson in sharing and community involvement? Here are some charitable, health-oriented, crafty, and resourceful ideas we picked up from around the web.

 6 ways to give back to good causes this Halloween

Operation Gratitude Halloween Candy GIVE-Back

15 Ways to Use Leftover Halloween Candy

Halloween Candy Buy Back

How to Store Leftover Halloween Candy

Have a fun and safe Halloween!  Happy Playing!

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