5 Thanksgiving Math Activities for the Classroom

Math is everywhere - including in food!

At MIND, we had a chance to explore the culinary arts with our Taste of Math event a couple of years ago, but there’s more accessible ways to bring math into food, especially during one of the ultimate food-lover’s holidays, Thanksgiving.

Fair Sharing Puzzles for Thanksgiving

Fair sharing is a great topic to bring up for 3rd through 5th graders during Thanksgiving. Fair sharing asks students to divide quantities equally into a certain number of groups. A great introduction to division, fair sharing models have a practical application to the Thanksgiving meal. Because everyone wants their fair share of the stuffing, turkey and (especially) the pie!

Play fair sharing puzzles from ST Math and then extend the lesson with some questions for the class, depending on grade level. These questions can be drawn out visually as individuals or as a whole class:

• If you have 2 turkey legs and 2 guests who want legs, how many legs should each guest get?
• If you have 12 rolls and 4 guests, how many rolls can each guest get?
• If you have 16 servings of stuffing and 7 guests, how many servings can each guest get and what will be leftover?
• If you have 8 Thanksgiving guests and 2 pies, how much pie should each guest get?

Turkey Estimation Jars Activity

This Thanksgiving estimation jars activity from PBS is adaptable for classrooms and almost any grade level. Use larger or more jars as a math station. Ask students to draw or write their strategy for estimating in addition to recording their guess.

One idea to reward the students who get the closest to the exact answer is to allow them to lead the class out of the classroom for the holiday break or help you close up the classroom by checking the windows and doors and turning off the lights.

Thanksgiving Cooking Graph Theory Exploration

Denis Sheeran, author of Instant Relevance (reviewed in our list of books for educators), and other books, brought up a great exploration question for students.

What are you eating for Thanksgiving meal? Based on the appliances you have in your house, how can you minimize prep time and have the whole dinner ready?

First, let students think about what information they need: each dish they will be eating, the appliances needed and the prep and cooking time for each dish. Then, how will they organize and visualize the information? This activity can lead to a solid graph theory exploration.

You can find Denis Sheeran on Twitter at @MathDenisNJ.

Measure Pies Using Pi

One of my family's favorite Thanksgiving traditions is baking pumpkin pie from scratch. Although it takes all day to make, the taste is well worth the extra effort. But before carving off that tricky first piece, let's do some simple Euclidean Geometry using Pi. All you need is some string and a pair of scissors. Here's how to do it:

1. Wrap a string around the circumference of the pie and cut off any excess string (make sure you let it cool first)
2. Next, take the cut string and measure the diameter of the pie as many times as you can
3. What do you notice about what's left?

Thankful Letter to JiJi

If you use ST Math in your classroom, you can download and print this JiJi coloring and writing prompt for Thanksgiving. Ask your student to write why they are thankful for JiJi.

Did you know? is home to this fun printable and many other resources to support your ST Math implementation!

At MIND, we are so thankful for our supporters (educators, partners and donors) who are helping us on our mission to ensure that all students are mathematically equipped to solve the world’s biggest challenges.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Calli Wright was the Marketing Manager at MIND Research Institute. She loves playing and designing board games, which she often talks about on twitter @CalliWrights.

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