- Education and Science
Pumpkins and Place Value
Carving a Pumpkin
Understanding Tens, Hundreds and Beyond
Pick the biggest pumpkin you can find. Cut off the top and smell the fresh pumpkin smell. Carving a Jack O'Lantern leads to a mathematical unit study of place value that incorporates all five senses.
Counting pumpkin seeds into groups of 10's, 100's etc. helps children understand our decimal system and prepares them in a concrete way to understand higher level math.
Scoop out those seeds, roast them if you like and count your way to a concrete understanding of place value.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds
Planting Pumpkin Seeds
As a child I helped my father drop seeds into the hills of garden dirt mixed with just enough compost to feed the growing pumpkin plants.
I loved the feel of the warming earth on my toes, the squishy damp earth, the wiggly worms and the earthy smell of spring.
We watered each seed and looked forward to the day that the pumpkins would be heavy, round and orange, ready to take home to eat and carve.
How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? - Picture Books that Explain Place Value
Plant a pumpkin seed and watch it grow into a pumpkin. When the pumpkin is ripe, you can weigh the pumpkin and then cut it open to count the seeds.
When all of the pumpkins have been brought in we put them in order from smallest to largest and then estimate the number of seeds in each pumpkin.
Pumpkin Leaf - Pumpkin Blossom
The seeds become sprouts
Later I helped my mom make pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread and pumpkin pudding. We even added pumpkin to spaghetti sauce.
My favorite day was the day my dad would bring the biggest pumpkin up onto the porch to carve into a Jack-o-lantern.
Choosing the Largest Pumpkin
Counting Pumpkin Seeds
But I never observed a pumpkin so well as the day I helped my students count the pumpkin seeds.
Wagon Full of Pumpkins - Pumpkins Full of Hundreds and Thousands of Pumpkin Seeds
Estimating the Number of Seeds in a Pumpkin
October is a great month for counting pumpkin seeds. Have each child bring in a pumpkin. You can estimate the weight, measure the circumference, count the ridges, and carve it with geometric shapes. There are 10's if not hundreds of ways to use math to describe a pumpkin.
Counting the seeds is one of my favorite ways to explore place value. During the week before we will be counting seeds I ask parents to send in a pumpkin. I introduce the Pumpkin Theme by reading From Seed to Pumpkin in order to learn about the life cycle of the pumpkin.
Estimating the number of seeds in the pumpkin. - Pumpkin Seeds
Estimate the Number of Seeds in a Pumpkin
Pick a pumpkin for carving and counting seeds.
1. Each child writes an estimate for the number of seeds they think are in the pumpkin.
2. Attach estimates above the number line.
To better understand estimation it is important to repeat the process several times so carving, cutting and counting a pumpkin should be done in groups of 3 or 4 children leaving enough pumpkins for several days.
Cut the Top off the Pumpkin - Carving the Pumpkin
Carve Your Pumpkin
Photo Credit: Carve the Pumpkin on Flickr, Creative Commons.
Photo Credit: Smell the Pumpkin on Flickr, Creative Commons.
1. Listen to the squeaky sound as the top is cut off. Cutting into a pumpkin is difficult and the knife is wedged in tightly, causing vibrations which cause the sound you hear.
2. Cut off the top and look inside. Notice how each fiber leads to a seed.
3. Can you smell the pumpkin? Does it smell the same as pumpkin pie?
4. Does the outside of the pumpkin feel dry or moist? How does the inside feel? Do you see beads of moisture forming where you cut off the top?
Pumpkin Carving Time
Cut off the Top of the Pumpkin
Use all Five Senses
5. Use your fingers to pull out all the seeds; separating them from the fibers or strings as you go. Spread the seeds out on a tray and dry them or roast them in a warm oven.
6. Use a large spoon to scrape our the strings. It is safe to taste the strings. Do they taste the way you would expect? Do they taste like pumpkin pie?
7. Do you think your estimate was lower or higher than the number you recorded? Write down your new estimate.
Scoop Out the Pumpkin Seeds - Spread Out the Seeds
Scoop out the Seeds
Place Value Grid
Writing the Numbers on the Place Value Worksheet
Now count the number of seeds that did not make a complete set of 10 and write that number in the ones column.
Count the number of left over Gatorade caps and write that digit in the tens column.
Then count the number of small pumpkins with seeds and write that digit in the hundreds column.
Photo Credit: Chart Created by Evelyn Saenz
Finally count the number of large pumpkins, if any, and write that number in the thousands column.
Now you know how many seeds were in the pumpkin.
Compare the exact number with your estimates.
Investigating Place Value - Collecting Data and Using a Place Value Mat
1. Put one seed at a time on the plastic orange plate.
2. Ten pumpkin seeds go in a small plastic pumpkin.
3. Ten small plastic pumpkins go in the large plastic pumpkin.
Count the Pumpkins in the pumpkin Patch
Draw pumpkin leaves on green paper and draw a line down the middle. Write tens on the top of the left hand side and ones on the top of the right hand side. Laminate the Pumpkin Patch mat.
Make a stack of pumpkin shaped cardstock cutouts. Write two digit numbers on the pumpkins. On the back draw the pumpkins for self checking.
Pumpkin Math Mats
Pumpkin Math Center
Each child or pair of children needs a pumpkin Patch Mat, some Pumpkin Cards, 9 Pumpkin Erasers and 9 pumpkin seeds. Erasers are worth 10 seeds.
Children show the number of pumpkins growing in the field using Erasers and Seeds.
Pumpkin Seed Math Books
Counting pumpkin seeds,
Oh what fun!
How many seed inside this big one?
Find all the members of the nine family using pumpkin seeds as math manipulatives.
- Pumpkin Seed Math Books
Pumpkin seed counting ideas from Kim's Kindergarten class.
Place Value Lessons - Help you to teach Place Value
These are the very best books I have found for teaching Place Value using hands-on methods. They have hundreds of ideas for making math come alive for the children.
The idea for counting pumpkin seeds, from the Mathematics Their Way program, was one of the first hands-on lessons I taught and it is still one of my favorites. I was substituting in a classroom in central Vermont where small classes and cooperation allowed the first and second grade teachers to collaborate on innovative ideas. The teacher brought a large pumpkin into the classroom and the math class began. We estimated the circumference and weight, graphed the estimations and then guessed the number of pumpkin seeds that the pumpkin would contain.
Finally we were allowed to cut off the top and begin counting. We counted ten pumpkin seeds by placing one seed at a time on a laminated sheet of paper or math mat with nine small circles, one for each pumpkin seed. When each of the circles was filled and the next one had no place to go, we slid all of them off into a paper cup. Nine paper cups were provided with a small plastic pumpkin off to the left and ten cups full of pumpkin seeds were dumped into it.
We discussed place value and soon learned the number of pumpkin seeds found in the pumpkin. The children were told that they would be carving and counting pumpkins all week and that they would discover that their estimations would become more and more accurate.
Growing Pumpkins - Life Cycle of the Pumpkin
How did you come to understand Place Value?
Maybe you still don't understand it. For me it wasn't until I was doing my Student Teaching and I worked with a wonderful teacher who was beginning to use the Math Their Way method of teaching.
As I helped the children make groups of ten objects and group those ten objects to make hundreds it all started to make sense. The numbers were no longer just numbers on paper. They now had meaning.
This need to understand the significance of each digit becomes important as children begin to learn to multiply and divide large numbers.
How did you learn Place Value?
Counting Pumpkin Seeds to 10
The video below gives some ideas for Pumpkin Seed center activities or activities for children who are not quite ready for counting numbers beyond 10.
Number Sequence Game
Large pumpkin for holding two digit number cards.
Program pumpkin cutouts with numbers between 0 and 99.
1. Pass the pumpkin while playing music.
2. When the music stops the child holding the pumpkin takes out a pumpkin card, reads the number and shows it's value by setting out the correct number of small plastic pumpkins (tens) and seeds (ones).
Variation: Once the group understands how to play this game it can be played in small groups of 3 or 4 at the same time.
Note:Make sure that the groups are of mixed abilities and that everyone gets a chance to show the number values.
Ten Little Pumpkins
Ten Little Pumpkins
Here is a song to help little pumpkin counters count the ten seeds that go into the small plastic pumpkins.
Ten Little Pumpkins
(tune of Ten Little Indians)
One little, two little, three little pumpkins.
Four little, five little, six little pumpkins.
Seven little, eight little, nine little pumpkins.
Ten little pumpkins growing in a patch.
Ten little, nine little, eight little pumpkins.
Seven little, six little, five little pumpkins,
Four little, three little, two little pumpkins.
One little pumpkin growing in a patch.
If you're going to try making ten of these cute little Lego Pumpkins you are going to have to collect lots of orange Legos. Here are the directions and quantities to make one:
How many orange Lego bricks would it take to make ten pumpkins?
How to make a Lego Pumpkin
If you're going to try making ten of these cute little Lego Pumpkins you are going to have to collect lots of orange Legos. Here are the directions and quantities to make a 3-D Lego Pumpkin.:
How many orange Lego bricks would it take to make ten pumpkins?
More Pumpkin Math Activities
The face of a Jack-o-lantern is usually made of geometric shapes. Use black paper to represent the shadows inside a Jack-o-lantern.
- Make lots of triangles
- Cut out some circles
- Make squares, rectangles and ovals
- Give each child a piece of orange paper for them to cut into a large pumpkin shape.
- Pass out the glue sticks
Children can use the geometric shapes to make their own Jack-o-lantern faces.
- Post these faces on the bulletin board and skip count to see how many eyes, noses, etc that are shown on the bulletin board.
- Make tally marks to count the teeth.
How could you show the total numbers using place value?
How many Unifix cubes high is your pumpkin?
- Pumpkin Math
Pumpkin Math Worksheet
- Pumpkin Math Activities and Lessons from Little Giraffes
Pumpkins Activities, Lessons and Printables
Pumpkin Mosaic - Pumpkin Art
Seeds of many kinds make beautiful mosaics. Here is one made using pumpkin seeds.
- Pumpkin Seed Mosaic - Sculpture - KinderArt
Free sculpture and collage lesson plans for kids, parents, teachers and homeschoolers
- Paper Plate Pumpkins
The pumpkin craft invites ideas of counting pumpkin seeds, adding lines to separate numbers of seeds, or writing pumpkin patch stories that could be hidden inside.
Pumpkin Calendar Pattern
Make a pattern with pumpkins, leaves and apples for your calendar.
Each day you slip in the next number and guess the pattern as each day's picture is revealed.
Math is all about recognizing patterns. With practice in creating and recognizing patterns children begin to develop number sense.
Pumpkin Number Line
Make a number line adding a number each day. Write the numbers 1-9 on each of the and the number 10 on the large pumpkin. Continue on for the rest of the month or until you get to as high a number as your children are learning to count to.
Number lines help children visualize the meaning of Place Value.
Pumpkin Tote Bag - Pumpkin Story Bag
Place Value and Pumpkins
There are many ways in which we can use our pumpkins to learn about math. You might want to estimate each of the measurements before actually measuring them. They arrange the pumpkins according to the measurements.
- Count the ridges
- Weigh the pumpkin
- Measure the height
- Measure the circumference
- Measure the diameter and radius of a cut pumpkin
- Weigh the pulp and seeds
- Weigh the pulp without the seeds
- Weigh the seeds before drying.
- Weigh the seeds after drying
- Count the seeds
- Form the seeds into squares and rectangles to demonstrate multiplication
- Divide the seeds into equal groups
- Eat the seeds while playing a subtraction game.
- NEA: Predicting Pumpkins
Is there a relationship between a pumpkin's size and the number of seeds it contains?
- In the Heart of my Home: Gnomes, gnumbers, place value and pumpkins
A lesson in place value
- Predicting Pumpkins Worksheet
Make a Prediction
Place Value beyond the Pumpkins
More Pumpkin Games
After all the pumpkins have been gathered and the seeds have been counted, what can you do to continue learning Place Value concepts?
From daily calendar count to I Have, Who Has card games the learning fun never ends.
- Activities : Play Placemat Place Value
Ordinary drinking straws are fun for drinking juice and even for spitballs when you're not looking, but also fabulous for learning first grade math.
- Mathwire.com | Place Value Activities
Place Value Practice: School Day Count Routine Students need many different activities to develop a conceptual understanding of our base-ten number system.
- Math on a Roll
Build skills in place value, addition and subtraction, multiplication, and more with these easy dice games
More Pumpkin Ideas
- Pumpkin Unit - Mrs. Nelson's Class
Contains classroom photos, thematic teaching ideas for throughout the year, and resources for teaching reading, writing, and math.
- Welcome to the Pumpkin Patch
Weigh a pumpkin. After scooping out the seeds and pulp, weigh the pumpkin again and compare the two weights.
- Counting Pumpkins by 10's Book
Pictures of tens of pumpkins with very simple text. Ebook or pdf format.
- Easy Pumpkin Song for Kids
Five Little Pumpkins Language Focus: Emotions and actions ("Smiling", "Happy", "Pouting", "Grumpy", "Yawning", "Sleepy", "Crying", "Sad", "Laughing", "Playing
- Using Pumpkin Seeds as Math Manipulatives
Background: Pilgrims and other early American settlers made the first pumpkin pies by burying pumpkin in the ashes of their fires. After a pumpkin had cooked, they would cut off the top, scrape out the pulp and add honey or maple syrup. The pulp wa
More Ideas for Teaching Place Value
- How to Use Montessori Counting Chains to Teach Large Numbers
How to Use Montessori Counting Chains to Teach Large Numbers. Montessori counting chains are long chains of beads that are designed to help children visualize and count large numbers. They can be purchased in sets or built using Montessori golden bea
- Sir Cumference and the King's Tens and Place Value
Use place value to help Lady Di count the guests coming to the party.
Lilliput Station creates wonderful Lapbooks for nearly any imaginable unit study.
Click on the Lilliput's Lapbook link below to go to the free downloadable file.
Pumpkin and Place Value Lapbooks
- DIY Pumpkin Place Value Game | Enchanted Homeschooling Mom |Enchanted Homeschooling Mom
Learn about and practice your place values with this hands-on DIY Pumpkin Place Value Game!
- A First for Everything : Lapbooks
A pumpkin lapbook to inspire your own creation. Be sure to add some place value activities to this project.
Writing about Place Value and Pumpkins
Have you ever counted all the seeds in a pumpkin? How many seeds do you think you will find?