Halloween Math!

I had the great pleasure of working in a second grade classroom where we integrated math and science with a Halloween theme.  The inspiration for this lesson came from a Kindergarten teacher who has the website SHARING KINDERGARTEN.  This website is chock full of great ideas, many of which she freely shares!  The lesson that inspired me is titled “Dem Bones” and the big idea is to name the bones, locate them on a skeleton, sort them, and graph your data.  You can find  this lesson on TPT for free as well using the link: DEM BONES.  You will find many great printables that you can use with your class, such as this labeling activity below.DemBonesBagofBonesFreebieFile

My first mission was to find the Cheetos Bag of Bones.


This was more challenging than I would have first anticipated.  While you would expect to find these in the chip aisle, that is not the case.  The secret is to seek out the Halloween aisle.  That is where you will find these little treasures!

Next, I began to think about how I could adapt this lesson to better fit the needs of second graders.  As the class had already been studying the skeletal and muscular systems, I decided to have them name the bones using more academic language than a kindergarten would be expected to use.  Note the use of the words humerus and femur.  The students felt so scientific using such sophisticated words!

Bone Labels

I then showed them the bag of Cheetos and asked them what mathematical questions they had.  One of the questions that a student posed was “How many of each body part is in the bag?”  This was the perfect lead in to our data collection!

On the back of the bone labeling form, I had students predict which body parts the class would have the most and the least of.  I gave them the sentence frame “I predict…” and once they had finished recording I had them discuss their predictions with their group.

I predict...

From there students began to sort their bones, using their fancy science language, and graph the number of bones they had in each category.  I had them use the sorting mat to organize their sort (and keep their desks clean).


They then graphed their bones on using this printable.


From there we collected the data as a class, as second graders are very capable of dealing with numbers that exceed what can be graphed individually on the form above.  As each student reported out their individual amounts for each part, I kept a running tally.  Every time we reached a group of five, we added a sticky note to our class graph.  This was the first time students had considered a graph in which each unit represented more than just one item.  I chose each unit to be a five, as I knew students were comfortable counting by fives to find a total.  When all was said and done, this was the graph we had created as a class:


The students then made observations regarding the data on the graph.  Many of the statements focused on the question we had posed surrounding the ideas of greater than and less than, but quickly extended beyond that.  One student noted that the total number of bones was 247.  Noticing that he had not used a pencil to find this sum, I asked how he arrived at his answer.  He proceeded to tell me how he had combined the 60 and 40 to make one 100, then took 40 from the 82, and combined it with 60 of the 65, to make another 100.  That left 4 more tens from the 82.  He stated that this gave him two hundreds, 4 tens, and then added the 5 and the 2 to get 7 ones.  Wow!!!  His fluency with composing and decomposing numbers blew my mind!

Then, of course, the kids began to wonder how many skeletons they could build with their sample, so we spent some time exploring that question as well.  I love it when students pose good questions!

Building Skeletons

Finally, the part that the students were most excited about…they got to eat the bones!

Eating skeletons


Published by: jgarner05

I am a math consultant with the Stanislaus County Office of Education and a preservice math content instructor at California State University, Stanislaus. It is my passion to work with teachers to improve math content understanding and instruction.

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