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Scholastic Parents: The Learning Toolkit

# Valentine's Day Math

Use boxes of candy hearts to help teach valuable math skills, including counting, sorting, comparing, graphing, fractions, decimals, and percents.
on February 11, 2014

As your child comes home with tons of Valentine's Day cards and boxes of candy hearts, consider turning them into a learning experience!  My kids love rereading all their cards but don't always love eating the candy hearts.  So every year we use the candy hearts and turn them into a math lesson.  Here are several ways to use the hearts and encourage learning all at the same time!

Counting:  Younger children can count and sort the hearts.  They can count by different groups – such as 2's, 5's, 10's – to find the total in each box.  Once they get their total, you can ask them extension questions to encourage math talk and vocabulary:

• "How many more hearts do you need to get to 20?"
• "How many more hearts do you have than I have?"
• "Can you show me how you counted your hearts?"
• "Why did you count them like that?"

Sorting & Comparing:  Kids can sort the candy hearts by color or phrases.  Ask them to sort them into groups without telling them how.  It's amazing what they can come up with on their own!  Then, they can compare the groups.  Observe how your children are comparing – some just count then compare, some match one-to-one, and others try to find equal groups.  We can learn a lot about how children think by understanding their strategies and reasoning behind their thinking.

Graphing:  This one's my favorite!  I love to make graphs with my kids, and using candy hearts or M&M's are perfect.  The concept of graphing starts as early as kindergarten and 1st grade so it's never too early to expose them.  For younger students, bar graphs and picture graphs are the easiest.  Consider using graph paper or printing it free from the Internet here.  Children can graph by color or phrases and draw the x-axis and y-axis, as well as label and title their graph.  Ask questions such as:

• "Which color has the most/least data?"
• "How many more/fewer kiss me hearts are there than I love you hearts?"
• "How many hearts are there altogether? How do you know?"
• "If I added 2 more blue hearts, how many would blue have?"

Older students can create line plots either vertically or horizontally.  They can answer more challenging questions, as well as create their own questions.

Fractions, Decimals & Percents: Older students can use ratios to compare the colored hearts.  They can find the fraction of each color/phrase and convert them to decimals and percents.  They can create a fraction/decimal/percent chart to represent each color or phrase. They can also create story problems to help reinforce problem solving skills. (Fractions begin in 3rd grade while decimal work begins in 4th, and percents in 6th grade).

Happy Valentine's Day!