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Pumpkin Seed Estimation

by Early Math Counts

Lots of kids know that there are seeds inside of a pumpkin.  They may have seen them if they carved Jack-o-Lanterns during October.  They may have even toasted them and had a tasty treat. My older sister was allergic to pumpkin, so my dad tied garbage bags to her arms (all the way up to her armpits) so she could dig into the pumpkins with the rest of us, as it was a slimy-good time.

Small children love guessing games.  They want a turn to guess, even if their guess is way off. They don’t care and neither should you.  The purpose of estimation in the early years is to give children a chance to guess at the quantity of something or the frequency of an occurrence.

The fun part of pumpkin seed estimation is that you can do it in stages.

First, I would have the children estimate how many seeds there are inside the pumpkin BEFORE opening it up.  That way, they can simply put a number out there as a complete guess.  You can write down their estimations on a large sheet of paper so they can see who guessed what.

Next I would open the top of the pumpkin and have each child look down into it.  That way they can get a sense of how full the pumpkin is with seeds.  Then they can estimate again.  Write down this number next to their first guess.  You can then talk about why their guesses are the same or different, bigger or smaller.

For the third stage, I would have the children scoop the seeds onto a large baking pan and then rinse them off.  That way they can see the separate seeds, without all of the pulp attached to them. Have them estimate a third time.  Write this number down next to the first two.  Are they the same or different?  Are children changing their estimations based on observations or are they still guessing?

Finally, you count the seeds.  It may be easiest to put the seeds into piles of 10, even though I wouldn’t expect the children to be able to count by tens.  They could help you count to ten several times and you could then tell them the total.  Compare this number to their estimations and discuss.

Even though children may eat the seeds at home, do NOT cook them at your center.  Seeds are a choking hazard for young children.



6 Replies to “Pumpkin Seed Estimation”

  1. Jen:

    What a cool idea!
    Pumpkins provide so many \”math moments\” for us- This is a lovely way to explore numbers – once a group of first graders I had the pleasure of working with had a fantastic time measuring the circumference and the height of pumpkins they chose after a field trip to the pumpkin farm using the plastic link chains we had in class at the time.

    Counting Seeds and baking them – can lead to story dictation .
    we could use an easel to write the ingredients for our pumpkin treat
    we could figure out how much of the ingredients we decide should go in our recipe create a recipe for pumpkin muffins or some other wonderful pumpkin delight.
    Parent helpers for extra supervision ( no pumpkin seeds in the mouth before cooking)
    Of course parents would be advised this was taking place and would remind us about allergies etc that should be in the health logs for children in our care
    More fun will be had as a result of this fantastic math moment with pumpkin seeds

  2. This is a fantastic seasonal math activity for young children. I wonder if the children could also chart the stages on a bar graph. Then they could compare and contrast the bar graphs from each stage.
    Thanks for the fun ideas for autumn.

  3. I love this idea because the young children are so familiar with the pumpkins in this season. Through this funny activity, the yound kids will learn what is estimation, what is actual numbers. Pumpkins can be used in various ways not only making masks for Halloween.

  4. I think that this is such a cool idea. i love how in the blog it mentioned that the sister was allergic to pumpkin, because in the field of early childhood, there are going to be children with all different types of allergies but they would still like to participate. the garbage bags were a great idea for wrapping the childs arms up so that they wont have a reaction. the estimating game is a wonderful idea as well. children do love to guess. they can get excited about guessing the number of seeds and even more excited when they see if they were right. all of these ideas are great and i think i will try this with my own children.

  5. What a fun and creative way to add some autumn-inspired math to the classroom! I have yet to meet a child that doesn\’t love pumpkins. Having the children estimate the number of pumpkin seeds three different times is a great way to teach them that there is always still the same amount of seeds, no matter how they are organized. Not to mention, there are so many ways to extend this activity (painting the pumpkin, making pumpkin bread, pumpkin goo, etc.)! I also have to comment on how much I love your father\’s thoughtfulness in covering your sister\’s arms so she could partake in the sensory explosion that is carving pumpkins!!

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