Addition, subtraction and estimation can be more frightening than ghosts, goblins and ghouls for some elementary and middle school children. Halloween is the ideal holiday to show them there is nothing to fear and learning math is fun, according to Kevin Judd, Vice President of Whizz Education, creator of the online math tutor, Math-Whizz. Judd, a former Math Teacher and Curriculum Director, recommends seven easy ideas for parents to incorporate math into the Halloween mix this year:
1) Count, Estimate and Categorize Candy
Children enjoy playing with their candy almost as much as they enjoy eating it. To take advantage of their enthusiasm, parents can encourage them to weigh their trick-or-treating bounty using a traditional bathroom scale, count individual pieces of candy and estimate the amount of calories in the whole bag. Children will have fun separating the candy into categories, i.e. chocolate, hard, soft, nutritious, most frequent type, etc.
2) Ponder the Pumpkins
Place various sizes of jack-o-lanterns in children’s arms and ask them to estimate how many pounds they think each one weighs. Use the bathroom scale to see how close they came. Then, take a common tape measure and wrap it around the jack-o-lanterns at the widest point to measure their circumference.
3) Masquerade as Math Characters and Calculators
A mad scientist, “The Count” from Sesame Street and a math wizard make fun math-inspired costumes. eHow provides step-by-step tips on how to create a calculator costume as well. Getting kids involved in making their costumes provides plenty of opportunities to teach children shapes and measurement.
4) Rack up the Repeats
Parents can ask children to choose one of the year’s most popular costumes such as the Angry Birds, Batman, or princess and add up how many duplicates they spotted. Parents can make it a contest among a number of children. The child who chose the costume that appeared most frequently wins bonus candy.
5) Balance the Halloween Budget
Halloween costs can add up. Parents can ask children to estimate how much the family spent on costumes, candy and pumpkins and encourage them to donate their used costume to a good cause.
6) Bake Math into the Halloween Fun
Cooking with kids is a treat for them and a math teaching opportunity for parents. Parents can invite kids into the kitchen to make candy apples and/or pumpkin pie and let the kids take the lead on measuring the ingredients. To increase the level of difficulty, challenge them to calculate the amount of ingredients needed to double the recipe or introduce the concept of ratios. For example, what is the ratio between the sugar and pumpkin?
7) Estimate the Trick-or-Treaters
The United States Census Bureau estimates that 41 million children between the ages of 5-14 participated in trick-or-treating last year. Parents can ask children how many trick-or-treaters they expect to visit their house and how many bags of candy the family should purchase to ensure they don’t run out before night falls.