Sneaking some math lessons into Halloween activities and parties might sound more like a trick than a treat. But between the costumes, countable candy and pumpkins, Halloween is actually a perfect time for parents to help make learning math fun for their kids, 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 the following 10 fun and easy ideas for parents to add math to the Halloween mix this year:
- Tally Trick-or-Treating. Before they ring the first door bell on their route, encourage your kids to keep a running tally of the houses that they visit for candy, and to estimate the number of miles they walk. They can weigh their bounty using a traditional bathroom scale, count individual pieces of candy and guess the amount of calories in the whole bag. Kids can also divide the candy into categories, i.e. chocolate, hard, soft, nutritious, etc. The tallying possibilities are endless!
- Judge the Jack-o-Lanterns. Place jack-o-lanterns large and small in your child’s hands and ask her to guess how many pounds she thinks each one weighs. Use the bathroom scale to see how close she came. Then, take a common tape measure and wrap it around jack-o-lanterns at the widest point to measure their circumference. For more pumpkin math practice, your child can also count the number of seeds inside. Why not roast the seeds while you’re at it?
- Mimic the Mathematicians. Inspire your kids to reach their highest math potential by inviting them to dress up as famous mathematicians like Albert Einstein or Sir Isaac Newton. Or if Sesame Street is more their speed, "The Count" makes a great costume. If you want to get really creative, kids can even create their own imaginary math heroes like MathMan or Subtractor!
- Spot the Duplicates. Pick one of the year’s most popular costumes such as the Smurfs, Transformers, Harry the Potter, Whinnie the Pooh, or whatever the flavor of the season happens to be, and have your child keep track of how many times she spots duplicates of it.
- Count the Cash. Between buying costumes, candy and pumpkins, Halloween costs can add up. Discuss with your kids how much money the family spends on Halloween every year, and ways that money can be saved by trading costumes with friends, making your own costume at home, and cooking Halloween treats from scratch. Beyond that, each time you and your kids go out to buy something for Halloween this year, have them count how much you're spending at the check out.
- Talk about Spooky Math Facts. Bats can consume nearly 50 percent of their body weight in food each night. The thread of the orb web spider is extremely elastic and can be stretched 30 - 40% before it breaks. Discuss these freaky facts and other spooky math facts with your kids this Halloween.
- Estimate the Candy Corn. This one's simple, but kids (and adults!) don't seem to tire of it. Fill a mason jar full of candy corn and have your kids guess the number of individual pieces. This game is particularly fun at parties. The person closest to the actual amount wins a prize.
- Check out the Geometric Genius of Spider Webs. Spiders use silk in their abdomens to spin geometrically complex creations to catch their pray. Different spiders make different spider web designs. Print some pictures of various webs--spiral orb webs, cobwebs, funnel webs, tubular webs, sheet webs and dome, tent webs and more—and discuss with your kids how they are the same and unique. Have your child try to spot the shapes she sees in the webs. Better yet, you and your kids can go on a hunt for some real spider webs around your yard and see how many you can find!
- Wade into Water Measurement. If you plan on bobbing for apples (and who doesn't on Halloween?), mark a line on the container where you want the water to reach. Ask your kids to estimate how many gallons of water it will take to reach the line. See who comes the closest.
- Count the Days until the Winter Holidays. Once all the candy is collected, break out the calendar and count the days until Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or any of the other winter holidays. This is a great way to cap off Halloween while sneaking in one last math lesson.
It doesn't take much to sneak some fun math practice into the excitement of Halloween. With a little bit of creativity, you and your kids will find that this candy-filled spooktacular holiday is filled with opportunities for learning. And with these ten tips in your trick-or-treat bag, you'll have everything you need to squeeze learning in this Halloween.
Whizz Education, Inc. is creator of the award-winning, online math tutoring program, Math-Whizz, for grades K-8. For more information about Math-Whizz, visit http://www.whizz.us.