Changing the focus of October 31st from traditional Halloween parties to an afternoon of pumpkin math activities addresses the objections many families have to Halloween and provides students to with an enjoyable, educational event.
Pumpkin Math Preparation
Prior to Halloween, send a note home explaining that October 31st will be an active, but academically focused day, rather than a celebration of Halloween. Ask for parent volunteers and donations of pumpkins. In class, have students make booklets for recording their pumpkin math activities.
Select Math Activities
Choose five to eight math activities like the ones explained below. Collect materials, and make posters with step-by-step instruction for each activity. See photos below for details on all activities.
For younger students, choose activities that focus on counting, estimating, comparing, finding patterns, and making simple graphs. For older students, focus on activities using multiples, averaging, graphing, probability, problem solving, and weighting and measuring.
Estimate and Weigh
Provide a selection of weighty objects. Students lift the object, decide if it weighs more or less than their pumpkin, then weigh the object. Using the known weight of their object, they estimate the weight of their pumpkin, and record their guess. Finally they weigh their pumpkin, record the weight and compare it to their estimate.
Students work in pairs. Each child draws a Venn diagram in his or her booklet, labeling one circle, “my pumpkin” and the other “partner’s pumpkin.” Working together students list attributes comparing and contrasting their two pumpkins.
Measure Height with Non-Standard Units
Students use Unifix cubes to build a tower as tall as their pumpkin, and then estimate how many “pumpkins” tall they are. They check their estimate by lying on the floor and having another student use their Unfix tower to measure their height.
Counting and Averaging Seeds
Provide a bowl of clean, dry pumpkin seeds and a small scoop. Students take a scoop of seeds and estimate the number. Younger students put their seeds in groups of ten and record the tens and ones. Older students count the seeds in one scoop, then create a table showing number of seeds in one through 6 scoops. Using their data they answer a challenge question “How many seeds in 20 scoops?”
Graph or Find Average of Lines on a pumpkin
Students count the lines on their pumpkins and record the number on a class graph. They should note whether they have an odd or even number of lines. Older students find the average number of lines on a set of pumpkins (three or four pumpkins for example), determine if the lines are evenly spaced, and measure the distance between lines.
Resources for More Math Ideas
Many hands-on, problem solving activities can be adapted to work with pumpkins. The following books have many ideas:
- Mathematics…A Way of Thinking, by Bob Baratta-Lorton , and Mathematics Their Way, by Mary Baratta-Lorton , both published by the Center for Innovation in Education.
- A Collection of Math Lessons, by Marilyn Burns  published by Math Solutions.
By changing the focus of October 31st from candy, witches and goblins, to activities like pumpkin math, more children can be included in the class activities and everyone can have a good time while learning and thinking. Add some treats like pumpkin bread or slices of pumpkin pie for an even more festive day.