Sunday, October 30, 2011

Math + Halloween = Zombie Fun

Happy Halloween everyone! 

As I search the net for free Halloween music like "Monster Mash" and might possibly pay to download "Thriller" (can't believe I don't have that one yet), it seemed appropriate to highlight some of my favorite Halloween and season-themed activities. Enjoy!

Time saver attention grabber tip: Go to Google Images and type in "Halloween Math" and you'll find cute pictures like this pumpkin that you can paste into your Smart lessons. The kids love it. And they may be fooled into thinking you actually made it ;)

Favorite cheap treat that isn't "halloweeny" enough to offend non-Halloween celebrating students: bring in suckers. They are cheap, tasty, and the rate of consumption of sugar in your class will drop off significantly for 10 minutes unless they are obnoxious enough to bite through it. The most student requests include Caramel Apple suckers, Blow Pops, Jolly Rancher suckers, but most surprising to me, Tootsie Pops! I always thought they were boring. Apparently they're making a come back.

Best middle school math activity, if the other grades don't get angry at you for stealing it: M&M color distribution analysis. We even scored our bags 1/2 off last year from Target!! Although I can't imagine any kids complaining that they got to do it more than once, and you can actually tailor it to meet many different math objectives. 

In the seventh grade MN math standards, students are expected to carry out simple data experiments, make histograms, convert data into percents out of the total, and graph in pie-chart form as well. What better way to investigate the interrelationship of all of these concepts, than by ripping open a bag of M&M's!? (fun-size of course, we don't want to get them too sugared up).

Better yet, record entire classes' worth of data in order to practice mean, median, mode and range for each color and/or each entire package. I also gave a homework extension assignment last year in which students could statistically analyze the types and quantities of Halloween candy they received. What a great way to reinforce and/or replicate the in-class investigation, without feeling like they did basically more of the same thing.

Heck of a lot more interesting than crunching meaningless worksheets' worth of random numbers, if you ask me. And tastier too!

Another branch of math you can easily relate is of course Geometry. There are endless corny jokes about "pi", in which you could carve the number or the symbol into a pumpkin and call it "Pumpkin Pi". Or maybe you want to measure the circumference and diameter of the pumpkin in order to derive or "make pi". 

In our current unit we are studying transformations in the coordinate plane and similarity. The possibilities are endless when it comes to pumpkins! Analyze the size, type, rotation/reflection of various polygons in the pumpkin's face. Rotate, dilate or translate pumpkins around the Cartesian plane. We are making "Mug Wumps" from the CMP Course 2 "Stretching & Shrinking" unit. 

While practicing the art of enlarging the Wump characters, especially around Halloween, the little guys are bound to turn up with fangs, costumes and other imposter artifacts. Just go with it! It's fun and educational, and leads to great conversations on similar versus not.

Lastly, and my personal favorite, is dressing up in some pop culture reference. My current faves are vampires and anything related to the Hunger Games. Anything that makes the students laugh (either with you or at you is fine!), but that also sparks conversations, helping both teachers and students get to know each other better.

I bought this last year along with obnoxious jingling cat-shaped bell earrings, and I think I'll wear it again. If it still fits. After all, Breaking Dawn does come out in theaters in a few weeks! YESSSS.... Go Team Nessie!