Halloween Candy Math
Peter used to love trick or treating. He didn’t much care for putting on a costume, but he would dutifully put up with putting on a simple magician’s cape and hat in order to grab the cheery orange pumpkin he used to collect his candy in and head out the door. This year, possibly because he’s growing up and is 12 years old, he was less enthusiastic. His little brother Luke at seven however was keen to go trick or treating, so Peter went along. Once we got started, Peter seemed to warm up to it, and stuck with Luke who was determined to clean out the neighborhood. When we finally returned home however, I could see he took off that costume and plopped down that pumpkin with a sense of relief that Luke had finally had enough.
I figured we were lucky to have squeezed in one more night of reasonable fun trick or treating with the two brothers, and next year Peter would be done with going out on Halloween. He could always move on to passing out candy at our door. But we were to enjoy one more bonus from our trick or treating efforts.
The next day, Peter naturally was quite interested in the contents of his pumpkin. We dumped out the candy and sorted it into “chocolate” or “not chocolate” piles. (I would hand him one candy at a time and ask “chocolate, or not chocolate?”, and he would say the answer and put it the correct pile.) Then he sorted each pile into “hard” or “soft.” We filled in a table:
Texture hard soft # of candies
chocolate 3 11 14
Not chocolate 4 14 18
Totals 7 25 32
Peter got to practice using the word “not” (“not chocolate”), attending to multiple cues (“How many soft chocolate candies did you get?” “How many hard, not chocolate candies did you get?”), and adding in word problems (“You have 11 soft chocolates, plus 3 hard chocolates makes altogether how many chocolates?”), and carrying over in double column addition (chocolates plus not chocolates, hard plus soft- he watched me demonstrate, then checked it by counting the tangibles).
To my delight, Peter was really into this activity. I do believe he enjoyed sorting and counting the candy considerably more than collecting it (which had required putting up with the hissing noise of dry ice mist sprays and having to say many thank you’s). Especially since we had to practice subtraction too, of course! (“Eleven soft chocolates minus the three you just ate equals?…”)