Pumpkin patch math

Fun fall ideas for early childhood math exploration!

Besides carving them, there are a lot of great ways to use pumpkins to expand children’s interests. Photo credit: Rebecca Finneran | MSU Extension

Besides carving them, there are a lot of great ways to use pumpkins to expand children’s interests. Photo credit: Rebecca Finneran | MSU Extension

It’s pumpkin season! Everywhere you go, pumpkins are out! From jolly jack-o-lanterns to pumpkin pies, it’s a great time of year for pumpkin projects. Besides carving them, there are a lot of great ways to use pumpkins to expand children’s interests. Here are four fun math projects that use pumpkins.

  1. Pumpkin measuring. Place a large pumpkin in front of the classroom. Provide children with a spool of yarn or string. Without touching the pumpkin, have children guess how big around the middle of the pumpkin is. Have children cut their yarn or string accordingly, using safety scissors. After each child cuts their estimated length, have them wrap their string around the pumpkin and record if their findings were “too long,” “too short” or “just right.” Have students hang their strings and record their findings in a class graph. As a great literature extension to this project, read The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll as an introduction to this activity.
  2. Pumpkin math mat. Download the free “Pumpkin Math Mat” from www.mathwire.com. Provide children with a bowl of pumpkin seeds and a dice. Have them roll the dice and then place the corresponding number of dried pumpkin seeds on the first pumpkin. They roll a second time, again recording the number of seeds. Finally, children write a math sentence reflecting the total number of seeds. An alternative to using actual dried seeds is to have children color seeds on their pumpkins.
  3. Guess how many seeds in a pumpkin. Bring a large pumpkin to class and have children guess what they will find inside (seeds). Open the top of the pumpkin and encourage children to estimate how many seeds are inside the pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds and material into a colander with help from children. Be careful as this can get messy and some children might choose to not touch the inside of the pumpkin. Rinse the seeds and count the results, graphing the number found. Older children can complete this activity in small groups. A great extension to this activity is to read How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara. Stop reading just before they discover which pumpkin has the most seeds, if you are comparing results in small groups.
  4. Measuring the height of pumpkins. Provide children with a variety of sizes of pumpkins, from very small to large. Have children measure the heights of the pumpkins with unifix cubes or other connecting blocks and record their answers. Small pumpkins might only be one or two cubes tall. How big is the largest pumpkin? Record your findings!
  5. Pumpkin weights. Provide children with a variety of sizes of pumpkins. Pass them around and have children guess which pumpkins are the heaviest and which are the lightest. Line the pumpkins up according to their estimated weight. Weigh pumpkins on a scale and rearrange as needed. Record your findings!

Michigan State University Extension offers a variety of early childhood education resources, professional development and parent education sessions. For more information about programs near you, ideas to extend favorite children’s books and much more, visit the MSU Extension Early Childhood Development webpage.

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