Jelly Bean Math Activities

Using jelly beans as math manipulatives can be a tasty way to introduce and reinforce math concepts.

By Karen Ganzel

Jelly Bean Math

As we all know, teachers love deals on things to use in the classroom. The Easter holiday provides a great opportunity to pick up jelly beans very inexpensively. They can be used in a multitude of ways for hands-on instruction. And what’s better, teachers and students can snack on them when they're done.

Anytime you get the chance to use manipulatives during instruction, it can improve student's ability to learn a topic, as we all know. Jelly beans are no exception. They come in many colors, flavors, and scents. In kindergarten, they can be used for sorting and categorizing. They can also be used to help students become more aware of their senses by trying to identify the flavor by the scent. Now might be a good time to introduce the scientific method in very basic form. You can blindfold your students or have them close their eyes, and smell a jelly bean. Once they make a flavor prediction from a prewritten list of flavors, students can taste the jelly bean to test their prediction.

Upper elementary students can use jelly beans for graphing activities. With the many types of graphs students learn to create and read, there are numerous possibilities. In my classroom, I tried as often as possible to let students come up with their own ideas about how to attack the situation on their own. You can give students basic guidelines for an assignment, and let them figure out how to complete it. Students can create their own data sets using the jelly beans. They can interview or survey the class for to find out favorite flavors or colors. They can also work in groups with their own set of 20-30 beans and graph by category. They would have to identify the labels for the axes on the graphs on their own to show divergent thinking.  

Other graphs can then be created from the bar graph to make pictographs, line plots, circle graphs/pie charts. The graphs can then spiral into discussing range, mode, mean, and median since they have a data set already generated for them to use. After the class has completed their graphs, they can glue them to paper or simply devour the goodies for their mid-morning snack. Here are some other lessons on graphing in which jelly beans can be used as the subject for analysis.

Jelly Bean Math Activities:

Create a Graph Online: Students use an online tool to create colorful bar, line, or pie graphs to display collected data. This lesson could be adapted for use with almost any curriculum unit.

Graphs Galore: In this lesson students show their ability to collect, organize, and analyze data using statistical methods. This lesson takes about four days to complete.

What’s in a Graph: The purpose of this lesson is to help students learn how to use and interpret graphs. The graphs are pulled from a variety of sources, and students are asked to interpret them. Students need to start this lesson with the knowledge of what a graph is. They should also know how to observe and collect data.

Circle Up Your M&Ms: Have you ever noticed that the colors of M&Ms aren't evenly distributed in each package? This is a fun way to show your students how to construct a circle graph using percentages based on the colors of 100 M&Ms. You can use jelly beans as an M&M substitute!