Geoboard Pumpkin

Standard Met: CCSS.Math.Content.K.G.B.5

What You Need: Pumpkins, pushpins, golf tees, wooden mallets, rubber bands

What to Do: Mary Catherine Tatoy, a PreK teacher in Virginia who blogs at Fun-A-Day!, uses pumpkins to teach patterning and geometry. “My students love our geoboard pumpkins,” she says. “I love that we are able to integrate motor skills, math, science, and language into one amazingly fun activity.”

Tatoy begins by inviting her students to observe while she transforms her pumpkin into a geoboard. Modeling the steps of the lesson (learning about basic shapes, for example), she carefully sticks pushpins and hammers golf tees into the pumpkin. She then stretches rubber bands around the pushpins and tees to create shapes such as triangles, squares, rectangles, and pentagons. Tatoy encourages her students to experiment as they create their own geoboards. By the end of the lesson, students will have exercised their fine and gross motor skills while creating and observing geometric shapes and patterns.

“At first, the children added more pushpins, then used the rubber bands to make patterns and shapes,” explains Tatoy. “Some students tried to make designs using the golf tees, while others simply enjoyed the process of hammering!”

Leaf Doubles (and Near Doubles)

Standard Met: CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.C.5

What you Need: Construction paper in blue and fall colors, markers, scissors

What to Do: Molly Murray, a first-grade teacher at Greencastle-Antrim Primary School in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, creates beautiful “leaf doubles trees” with her students for a lesson that covers both fall foliage and doubles facts—a quick way to add by focusing on doubling numbers.   

Murray precuts tree and leaf patterns out of construction paper. At the start of class, she hands out the precut materials and instructs students to glue their trees to a large sheet of blue construction paper. Students then choose a selection of leaves in two colors. (They can choose as many leaves as they want as long as there are enough to go around and the sum of the leaves is a doubles fact plus one.) If they have nine leaves, they then glue four leaves of one color onto their tree and four leaves of the other color onto the “ground” to display a doubles fact. (They should have one leaf of either color left over.) Next, students record their doubles fact in the space beneath their tree (in this case: 4 + 4 = 8).

Students are then asked to demonstrate near doubles by adding one more leaf to the tree but not to the ground and to record their new calculation underneath the tree. (In our example, the near double would read 5 + 4 = 9.)

“We did this [project] in these exact steps, so students could first see their doubles,” says Murray. “We then very intentionally added one more leaf to the tree so that they could understand and experience how it then became a near double.”


Standard Met: CCSS.Math.Content.1.MD.C.4

What you Need: Two pumpkins, sharp knife, graph paper, crayons (multiples of orange, green, yellow, brown, and white), The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin, templates (see below)

What to Do: With their bright-orange skin, tall green stems, and ooey-gooey insides, pumpkins are perfect for making curricular topics come alive. In a twist on the usual counting-seeds activity, have students investigate a pumpkin with the goal of representing it on a graph.  

Before you start, familiarize students with the shape of your pumpkin—and the concept of coordinate pairs. Then, distribute templates and have them color in a 10 x 10 coordinate graph in the shape of a pumpkin (see to download templates and for help with graphing instructions). They will be matching number-and-letter coordinates with colors to create the image on the grid.

Next, read The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin, the story of an odd-shaped pumpkin who realized it was okay to be different. Using a new grid, challenge students to let their imaginations run wild, and make a square pumpkin, a triangular pumpkin, or even a multicolored one!

Apple Arithmetic

Standard Met: CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.A.1

What you Need: 20 assorted apples (5 each of Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, McIntosh, and Granny Smith), medium-size container for apples, magnifying glass, graph paper, knife (optional)

What to Do: Apples are a great tool for teaching categorizing, sorting, and seasons. To begin, introduce the four types of apples students will be handling in this activity. Then, taking turns in small groups of three or four, have students sort the apples by type and by color. To inspire their inner scientists, encourage them to thoroughly handle the apples, using the magnifying glasses to take a closer look at variations in stems and skin and differences in colors and shapes. Then, on graph paper, work with students to tabulate the information they collected, including the total number of apples and the total for each color and type of apple represented.

Now, bring math calculating skills into the mix. Ask students questions like: “If we have 20 apples in total and take away five Golden Delicious apples and three Red Delicious apples, how many apples will be left?” Have kids record their answers. To complete the activity, have students represent the math problems by creating equations on a separate sheet of paper or the board. For the example above, the equation would be 20 – 5 – 3  = 12. As an extension, experiment with some simple fractions. Ask: “If we cut all of the apples in half, how many apples pieces will we have?” Or “If we cut all of the yellow and green apples in quarters, how many apple pieces will we have?” End by letting kids eat their fractions! 

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Photo: Courtesy of Mary Catherine Tatoy