"There's Math in My Candy Bag!"

All that candy!

This may be a proclamation in your home this week.

If so, perhaps one of these simple adventures could add a fun twist to your learning.

Measurement (linear) 

Young children, generally preschoolers, often learn to measure in non-standard (inconsistent) measurements before they measure in standard (consistent) measurements. Non-standard units might be blocks or perhaps toy cars.

So, why not Snickers?  

Snickers, or any candy bar for that matter, can be a non-standard unit of measure.

How many Snickers high is Dad? How many Kit Kats long is the bed?

Draw a visual representation. 

Measurement (weight)

Weigh your candy on a kitchen scale. Did everyone collect the same weight amount? This activity offers opportunity for children to learn to weigh objects and read a scale. To extend this activity, have the children estimate the weight before placing on the scale. If the estimation and the actual weight are written on paper, demonstrate how to subtract to find the difference (how close the estimate was to the actual weight). 

Sorting and Counting

Skittles and M&Ms create wonderful opportunities for sorting, counting, comparing, and graphing. In fact, if you have an abundance of fun size bags, consider inviting another family or a a group of friends to learn too! 

Small candies work well for set creation, comparing and counting. We used Smarties and Sprees for counting by fives and tallying. 


Sort out two different types of candy bar from the collection. Ask each member which candy bar is his or her favorite. Offer each his or her favorite to eat. Save the wrappers to make a "favorites" graph. 


Packages with multiple colors of candies--Skittles, M&Ms, and Starbursts--are great for teaching fractional parts. Count the total amount. Sort the colors. Make a visual representation of each color in relation to the whole. For example, if there are 16 Starbursts and 4 are orange, the written fraction would be 4/16. Taking a step further, 4/16 is equal to 1/4 of the package. 


Halloween behind us, stores in our area are posting opportunities to use practical math, for example 50% off $6.99, 75% off retail, and buy-one-get-two free. Take photos of these while out and work the math when you arrive home. OR, do it in the store to determine whether the sale is a "deal". 

Operations and Equations

My older children love to use math to determine whether or not they are getting a "sweet" bargain. We figure out cost (If a bag of candy costs $3.99 and the sale is 50% off, what will be pay?) and cost per unit (If the bag of fruit chews costs $2.19 and there are 50 chews per bag, what is the cost of each individual chew?). I also make up additional hypothetical scenarios (If you have a $10.00 bill in your pocket and the candy is $3.29 per bag, how many bags could you buy and how much change would you receive from your purchase?) This often leads to conversation about sales tax, taxable and non-taxable items, and cost per pound.

These yummy math ideas (and more) are compiled in my Flip Three Pancakes With One Spatula book, a resource I put together after years of hands-on math activities. Yes, my children love to eat their math. 

Ideas from the Flip Three Pancakes book.