Sweet Problem Solving

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

You can’t get much more of a real-life connection to problem-solving than this.

halloween problem solving

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The picture of the Halloween treat bags on the far right was taken on my dining room table! Every year I buy some chocolate bars and some non-chocolate candy (usually the Child’s Play mix), and I try to give each little ghost and ghoul a piece of chocolate and a couple of pieces of the other candy. This year, I thought it would be infinitely easier to just drop a little treat bag into each out-stretched pumpkin container!

Here’s the problem-solving situation I came up with:

Laura’s mom bought one bag with 40 mini candy bars and another bag with 72 pieces of assorted candy. How many treat bags with 1 mini candy bar and 2 pieces of assorted candy can she make? What candy will be left over?

Looking at the problem I created, can you think of ways to adjust it to make it more or less challenging? Probably lots of ways! Feel free to share your version in a comment. And if you try this problem with your students, please let me know how it went!

11 Comments

  1. Amy B

    I love this connection! Not sure how to make it more first gradish…any ideas??? Thanks Donna!

    Amy Burton

    Reply
    • Amy B

      I think that sounds good!!! I was also thinking of using the 40 piece bag and posing the question…How many trick or treaters can get candy if we give each one 2 pieces of candy?? THANKS! I love this!

      Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Hey, Amy!! How about just using the bag of candy with 40 mini candy bars and put 3 in each treat bag? Let them use manipulatives (two-color counters, etc.) to represent the candy bars. I think that would stretch firsties just enough, don’t you think?

      Reply
      • Alex

        I love this! My grade 2’s are working in skip counting by twos, so maybe I’ll suggest 2 treats per bag, and see how many bags we’d get. Then ask, how many more do I need to buy so all 22 students in our class get a treat bag?

        Reply
        • Donna Boucher

          What a great connection!

          Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Perfect!

      Reply
  2. Beth

    This will be perfect for Halloween Day! Thanks so much.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      You’re welcome, Beth! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Alison Hislop

    Here’s a challenge – “We wanted to make 20 bags, what will go in each bag?” or “Each treat bag needs to have 4 pieces of candy – what different combinations can you make? Will there be any left over?”

    Alison
    Teaching Maths with Meaning

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Ooh, I like these!

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Well, in my class the answer would probably be that there are no treat bags and no candy left over, because the teacher ate all of it.

    Reply

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