K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • sort objects based on color.
  • make reasonable estimations.
  • determine less than, more than, or equal to relationships.
  • write fractions to show the number in a set.
  • use available information to create tally charts, pictographs, and bar graphs.
  • solve division problems using manipulatives.
  • examine and explain information presented in a tally chart, pictograph, and bar graph.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

45 minutes


  • Individual size bags of M&M’s for each student
  • One copy of each worksheet for each child: M & M Math
  • Colored pencils, markers, or crayons.

Technology resources

  • Computer with access to internet and a CD Rom Drive.
  • Optional: CD “Graphers” by Sunburst.


Conduct an internet search of chocolate. Discuss where chocolate comes from, how it is processed, and the business and economics of producing chocolate.


  1. Give each child one bag of M&M’s and a handout. Go over the directions for each set of problems.
  2. Have students complete the handout and the graphs.
  3. Follow up with discussion questions:
    • Does every bag of M&M’s contain the same number? How can you explain this?
    • What combination of two colors produced the greatest amount of M&M’s?

Extension Activities:
Prepare graphs of other types of activities in the classroom using the program Graphers by Sunburst.


Students completion of the handouts as well as participation in class discussions will be used to assess their understanding of the concepts covered.

Supplemental information

This activity is a good follow up or introductory lesson to a unit based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The Chocolate Touch.


My children always enjoy this activity. We use it in correlation with a unit on chocolate as we are reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 3

        • Number & Operations in Base Ten
          • 3.NO.2Fluently add and subtract within 1000 using strategies and algorithms based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.
        • Operations & Algebraic Thinking
          • 3.OAT.5Apply properties of operations as strategies to multiply and divide.2 Examples: If 6 × 4 = 24 is known, then 4 × 6 = 24 is also known. (Commutative property of multiplication.) 3 × 5 × 2 can be found by 3 × 5 = 15, then 15 × 2 = 30, or by 5 ×...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 1: Number and Operations - The learner will model, identify, and compute with whole numbers through 9,999.
    • Objective 1.02: Develop fluency with multi-digit addition and subtraction through 9,999 using:
      • Strategies for adding and subtracting numbers.
      • Estimation of sums and differences in appropriate situations.
      • Relationships between operations.
    • Objective 1.04: Use basic properties (identity, commutative, associative, order of operations) for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
    • Objective 1.06: Develop flexibility in solving problems by selecting strategies and using mental computation, estimation, calculators or computers, and paper and pencil.
  • Goal 4: Data Analysis and Probability - The learner will understand and use data and simple probability concepts.
    • Objective 4.01: Collect, organize, analyze, and display data (including circle graphs and tables) to solve problems.