To some parents’ dismay, candy at Halloween time is unavoidable! Your third grader will be given the sweet stuff everywhere – school, parties, trick-or-treating, even at the doctor! You can put all that candy to good use with this motivating activity in which your child will sort and categorize his treats according to specific attributes. Delay your child’s sugar overload, and develop his critical thinking skills, by doing some “sweet sorting” of his Halloween treasures!
On Halloween night, once your third grader returns from trick-or-treating, guide her to an open area on the floor to spread her candy. Ask her to look through her candy and brainstorm ways it could be sorted. For example, candy could be sorted by the major ingredients (chocolate, fruit, peanuts), texture (soft, chewy, hard, smooth, bumpy) and size (big, medium, small). Or, she may just decide to sort by name: Milky Way bars, milk duds, and so on. Encourage her to brainstorm other attributes as well.
Next, ask your child to choose one of the attributes and list categories for it. For example, if she chooses to sort her candy by its texture, the categories would be soft, hard, chewy, smooth, and bumpy. Your child should create headings by writing each category on an index card.
Now it’s time to sort! Before she begins, ask your child to make a guess as to which of the categories will have the most candy. Spread the index cards on the floor and help your child begin to sort her candy under the correct category (In order to determine the candy’s texture, some tasting may be required!). Other family members may want to get involved in this project as well. When all candy has been sorted, have your child count the number of pieces under each category and write the number on the index card. Did she guess correctly?
Now's a perfect chance to practice a classic third grade skill: have your child graph the data! Using markers and a piece of graph paper, have your child make a bar graph showing how many pieces candy she has gathered in each category.
If your family is like ours, the next days and even weeks are filled with negotiations about how and when and if all this candy will be eaten. We recommend putting the graph on the refrigerator or on a prominent bulletin board, and using it to create a second set of data: which flavors are family favorites? And which ones will still be left over on December 1? Can we even...dare we say it...throw some of the stuff OUT?
Finally, if you do happen to have a third grade math maven around, you can also extend this activity and have even more math fun. Try adding the number of candies in each category to get an overall total. Then, on each index card, write a fraction to represent the number of pieces in the category over the total number of pieces. Divide the numerator (top number) by the denominator (bottom number) of each fraction to get a percentage for each category. What candies are the "classics" of your neighborhood? Do the math and you've got data you can really savor!
Brigid Del Carmen has a Master's Degree in Special Education with endorsements in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders/Emotional Impairments. Over the past eight years, she has taught Language Arts, Reading and Math in her middle school special education classroom.