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Pumpkins and Place Value

Updated on August 23, 2017

Carving a Pumpkin

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater
Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater | Source

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

Jack in the Beanstalk
Jack in the Beanstalk | Source

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

Growing Pumpkins
Growing Pumpkins

The seeds become sprouts

I watched the seeds sprout, the vines twine around and spread out. The yellow blossoms opened up for the bees and then died off to reveal the small green baby pumpkins.

Photo Credit: Pumpkin Seedlings on Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Pumpkin Blossom on Flickr, Creative Commons


Green Pumpkins

Green Pumpkin
Green Pumpkin | Source

Cooking Pumpkins

Later I helped my mom make pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread and pumpkin pudding. We even added pumpkin to spaghetti sauce.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pies
Pumpkin Pies | Source

Jack-o-lantern

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

Boy and Girl Carrying a Large Pumpkin
Boy and Girl Carrying a Large Pumpkin | Source

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

Pumpkins in the Blue Wagon
Pumpkins in the Blue Wagon | Source

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

Scooping out Pumpkin Seeds
Scooping out Pumpkin Seeds | Source

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 the Pumpkin
Carve 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

Taking off the Pumpkin Lid
Taking off the Pumpkin Lid | Source

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

Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds

Scoop out the Seeds

Photo Credit: Pumpkin Seeds on Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Pumpkin Seeds on Flickr, Creative Commons.

Using a spoon or fingers scoop out all of the seeds and spread them out on a newspaper or paper towels to dry.

Place Value Grid

Place Value Worksheet
Place Value Worksheet | Source

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

place value math mat
place value math mat | Source

Pumpkin Containers

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 Place Mats
Pumpkin Place Mats | Source

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
Counting Pumpkin Seeds | Source

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.

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

Pumpkin Vines
Pumpkin Vines | Source

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

Marching Pumpkins
Marching Pumpkins | Source

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?

Lego Pumpkin

Pumpkin Made out of Legos
Pumpkin Made out of Legos | Source

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

Triangle Face
Triangle Face | Source

Pumpkin Geometry

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?

Pumpkin Mosaic - Pumpkin Art

Pumpkin Mosaic
Pumpkin Mosaic | Source

Pumpkin Mosaics


Seeds of many kinds make beautiful mosaics. Here is one made using pumpkin seeds.

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

Pumpkin Literacy Bag
Pumpkin Literacy Bag | Source

Place Value and Pumpkins

Measure the Circumference of your Pumpkin
Measure the Circumference of your Pumpkin | Source

Pumpkin Math

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.

Place Value beyond the Pumpkins

Pile of Pumpkins
Pile of Pumpkins | Source

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.

More Pumpkin Ideas

Pumpkin Carving
Pumpkin Carving | Source

Pumpkin Lapbook

Pumpkin Lapbook
Pumpkin Lapbook | Source

Pumpkin Lapbook

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.

Writing about Place Value and Pumpkins

Using Place Value to Count Pumpkins
Using Place Value to Count Pumpkins | Source

Have you ever counted all the seeds in a pumpkin? How many seeds do you think you will find?

Pumpkins and Place Value Talk - Did you gain a better understanding of Place Value and the role of manipulatives?

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    • profile image

      UKMarkWilliam 4 years ago

      Wonderful theme

    • profile image

      UKMarkWilliam 4 years ago

      Interesting

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Wonderful as always:) Perfect ideas for teaching place value.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I love your lenses. They are fantastic.

    • KayeSI profile image

      KayeSI 5 years ago

      What fun ideas for grandparents and grandchildren during the lovely fall harvest season - what we consider to be Autumn Bliss :)

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image
      Author

      Evelyn Saenz 5 years ago from Royalton

      @AlleyCatLane: Thank you so much, AlleyCatLane:)

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      You are a fantastic teacher. All your lenses are bless worthy. Blessed!

    • profile image

      poutine 5 years ago

      I never did count seeds in a pumpkin. I wish you had been my teacher when I was a child.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      Fantastic lessons here. Blessed on the Squidangel Halloween quest.

    • profile image

      NaturalVamp 5 years ago

      I surely enjoyed the story at the beginning of your lens dahling as it reminded me of my father and he also growing pumpkins in the backyard.

    • LTPParents profile image

      Tracy Gibb 6 years ago

      Evelyn, I wish I had you as a resource when I was a preschool teacher. These ideas are so simple yet so creative. I love all of your lenses.

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 6 years ago

      brilliant to use maths to explain the world about us...wish you'd taught me math(s) !

    • akumar46 lm profile image

      akumar46 lm 6 years ago

      Wow ! Pumpkins used for counting place value....Great.....

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 7 years ago

      Just love Pumpkins

    • profile image

      Brook_Drew 7 years ago

      Hello, I would like to show you great site with many free online math games for kids.

      For Place Value Games: 2nd grade place value games

      for the main site: math games

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 7 years ago

      Great lens! Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Yet another fabulous and imaginitive way to teach our children maths, Evelyn!

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Goodness! I never knew there were so many things to do with a pumpkin!

    • profile image

      JennySui 7 years ago

      You always amaze me with ur great ideas. I always wonder how you people manage to make such a big and creative lens.

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 7 years ago from Western Mass

      you come up with such creative and fun learning ideas

    • profile image

      debraanne 7 years ago

      Great way to integrate lessons with the real world.

    • Teddi14 LM profile image

      Teddi14 LM 7 years ago

      You always have such great & helpful lenses. I am going to have to come back again and again!

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      This is adorable! Thank you again for incredible hands-on ideas.

      Pamela :)

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image
      Author

      Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

      [in reply to KimGiancaterino] Thank you SquidAngel.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 7 years ago

      Happy Halloween, Evelyn. You've been Boo-lessed by a Squid Angel.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image
      Author

      Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

      [in reply to Joan4] Thank you SquidAngel.

    • profile image

      Joan4 7 years ago

      You always amaze me with your wonderful ideas, Evelyn! This is so extensive and such super illustrations! Blessed.

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 7 years ago

      Wow! this is amazing! Some potential games for Halloween parties for sure. you are amazing Evelyn. Dedication and expertise galore! Thanks for the suggestion.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      [in reply to JaguarJulie]Thanks Evelyn for encouraging me to pay this lens another visit! I'm wondering if the average pumpkins have the same, less, or MORE pumpkin seeds as compared to last year? Do you think they change?

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Very clever theme for teaching!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image
      Author

      Evelyn Saenz 8 years ago from Royalton

      [in reply to Frank2009] It can be fun to make mosaics from Pumpkin Seeds, beans and dried corn.

      Estimate the number needed, use place value to help you count and then create a work of art.

    • Frank Edens profile image

      Frank Edens 8 years ago

      It did me think about my other lens http://www.squidoo.com/HomemadeMosaics, special for all those Mosaic lovers out there :)

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Had never thought of pumpkins and 'place value' but thanks to you Evelyn and all your wonderful creativity, you have made me have a new understanding for 'place value.' And, I thank you for that! ;)

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Welcome to the Learning and Teaching Math Group!

    • EpicFarms profile image

      EpicFarms 8 years ago

      What a wonderful lens! Great ideas with the pumpkin seeds - 5* and a smile :o)

      Http://www.squidoo.com/ConnieCrankpot

    • profile image

      MichelleH 8 years ago

      This is an excellent lens! 5 stars to you!!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 8 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I've never counted the seeds in a pumpkin. Well, maybe I did with my kids. Wish I had it all to do over with your excellent resources!

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 8 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      What a beautiful, helpful lens. I absolutely love those "turkeys" you have in the picture near the top, Five stars.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 8 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I'm going to have to come back again and again to see ALL your lenses. Your students are so very fortunate to have you as a teacher! 5 *s

    • go206th profile image

      go206th 8 years ago

      Another Wonderful Lens. Your lenses are always great. Thank you for joining my group, Homemade Halloween. Remember to visit the group site and support you fellow group memebers and vote for your favorite lenses. 5*

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Wonderful ideas and images here!

      You are hereby Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • The Homeopath profile image

      The Homeopath 8 years ago

      What a fun idea for this time of year! I've always used dried beans (LOL, I'm dull) for helping my kids learn math. We even made fun holders for them to keep their "counting beans" on their desks!

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 8 years ago

      What a great lens, so full of ideas and wonderful visuals! Thanks for all the hard work, and thanks for your kind comments on my LOTD!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 8 years ago from USA

      Amazing work on this great lens! Lensrolling this to my Pumpkin Carving 101 lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thank you so much for joining my group Welcome Parents - The Parent Place. I am excited to have such a talented lensmaster in the group. Keep up the GREAT work! :)

    • ronpass lm profile image

      ronpass lm 8 years ago

      What a superb lens, Evelyn. From one Giant Squid to another, congrats. I love the way you present your material - very attractive and inspiring.

    • Mortira profile image

      Mortira 8 years ago

      Fantastic way to save those jack-o-lantern seeds, and teach something valuable at the same time! Welcome to Family Time!

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 8 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Evelyn, as usual this is a beautiful lens with great ideas and lots of wonderful pictures. I happen to be one of those people that looks forward to carving a pumpkin just for the pumpkin seeds. Great job!

    • funwithtrains lm profile image

      funwithtrains lm 8 years ago

      Wow, nice lens!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 8 years ago from Covington, LA

      Oops, our posts must have crossed in cyberspace. I have also created a new featured lenses modules and added your Pumpkin Unit to mine.

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 8 years ago from Covington, LA

      Great teaching lens for the wee punkins. I lensrolled it to Pumpkin Picking Time. Thanks for visiting.

    • caketech profile image

      caketech 8 years ago

      Love this lens! This will be a great idea to use in our homeschool this year! Thanks for a great lens! 5*s and favorited!

    • go206th profile image

      go206th 9 years ago

      This is a great idea. Getting a childs attention is the hardest part. I will be counting seeds with my grandson this year. Thanks for joining my group, "Halloween Craft Ideas". 5*

    • groovyoldlady profile image

      groovyoldlady 9 years ago

      Superior (as ususal!)

    • Mortira profile image

      Mortira 9 years ago

      Teaching math in a way that kids can understand is so important - even at the highschool level. Thanks for the great lens! *****

    • Mortira profile image

      Mortira 9 years ago

      Teaching math in a way that kids can understand is so important - even at the highschool level. Thanks for the great lens! *****

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 9 years ago

      In our homeschool we used cuisinaire rods which were great. Another beautiful lens!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I sure wished they had taught using manipulatives when I was in school. Maybe I would have a better handle on Math. Great lens. 5*