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

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • sort their M & M’s by a given attribute (color)
  • estimate how many M & M’s are in bag #1 and bag #2
  • graph their M & M’s and conclude what color they have the most and least of
  • students will combine sets (add) M & M’s together and describe results

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

60 minutes


  • The M & M;s Brand Counting Book by Barbara Babieri McGrath
  • 1lb bag of M & M’s
  • Ziploc bags (one for each student)
  • pencils
  • crayons
  • M & M Graphing sheet - 1 copy for each student
  • M & M Adding sheet - 1 copy for each student
  • M & M Sorting sheet - 1 copy for each student
  • one copy of the Estimating sheet for each student
  • 1 Ziploc bag labeled #1 with 30 or less M & M’s inside
  • 1 Ziploc bag labeled #2 with 30 or less M & M’s inside (vary the number from bag #1)
  • posterboard


  • Put 30 or fewer M & M’s in a Ziploc bag labeled #1 and in a bag labeled #2 (vary the number in each bag).
  • Put 30 or fewer M & M’s in a Ziploc bag for each student.
  • Read the M & M Counting Book to the students in a whole group setting.
  • After reading the book discuss how the M & M’s were used in the book (counting, adding, making shapes, and sorting the M & M’s).
  • Review graphing, estimating, adding, and sorting with the students- these are all math concepts that have been previously taught.
  • Divide the students into four groups.



  1. After reading the M & M Counting Book explain the four stations to the students and explain what will be expected of them at each station.
  2. Have the student groups rotate through the four math stations at fifteen minutes intervals.
  3. Give the students his/her Ziploc bag with M & M’s inside.

Station #1- Estimating

  1. Each student will receive a sheet labeled bag #1.
  2. Show the children bag #1 and ask them to estimate how many M & M’s are in bag # 1. Have them write their estimate on the sheet that was given to them.
  3. Each student will receive a sheet labeled bag #2 and do the same process as they did for bag #1.
  4. At the end of the Math Stations, in a whole group setting, the teacher and student choral count the M & M’s in bag #1. Discuss student estimates, discuss whose estimates were closest and/or reasonable or not closest and/or unreasonable. On a piece of posterboard write the number in the middle of the posterboard that was counted in bag #1, and on the left side of the posterboard, tape the student estimates that were closest and/or reasonable to the number that was counted in bag #1. On the right side of the posterboard tape, the student estimates that were not close and/or unreasonable to the number that was counted in bag #1. Do the same process for bag #2).

Station #2- Sorting

  1. Each student will receive a M & M sorting sheet.
  2. Students will be asked to sort their bag of M & M’s by color. They need to place the appropriate color of M & M’s on the color word circle on their sorting sheet.
  3. After their M & M’s are sorted, have each student count how many M & M’s they have of each color and record that number on their sheet in the appropriate color word circle.
  4. If time allows, have the students color the circles on their sorting sheet using the appropriate color

Station #3- Graphing

  1. Each student will receive a M & M graphing sheet.
  2. The students are to graph his/her M & M’s by their color.
  3. The student then colors in the appropriate squares on the graph to represent how many of each color he/she had in their bag.
  4. Then the student needs to read his/her graph with the teacher assistant (this is where you can check their work) by answering these questions:
    1. Which color did you have the most of?
    2. How did you know this?
    3. Which color did you have the least of?
    4. How did you know this?

Station #4- Adding

Note: The teacher needs to be at this station at all times.

  1. Each student will receive an adding sheet.
  2. Have each student pull three green M & M’s out of his/her bag and place them in the first box (question #1) on their adding sheet. Have them record a number three in the first box.
  3. Next, have each student pull two red M & M’s of his/her bag and place them in the second box (question #1) on their adding sheet. Have them record a number two in the second box.
  4. Then have the students combine the three green and two red M & M’s in the third box (question #1) by counting how many M & M’s they have all together. Then have them record how many they have in all in the third box.
  5. Repeat this process for the next three questions on the sheet, using different numbers (Teacher needs to choose addends that are appropriate for your students)

Follow-up: In a whole group setting have the students share what they learned at each station and/or which station they liked best/worst and why. After all stations are completed the students can enjoy his/her M & M’s.


  • Asses the student’s ability to complete the activities conducted at each station.
  • Teacher observation and questioning at each station
  • Review of completed student papers (for a formal assessment).
  • Analysis of student’s verbal feedback during class discussion.

Supplemental information


My students enjoy this activity as they explore many math concepts using edible manipulatives. You can vary this activity by using Skittles, Gummy Bears or according to the holiday or unit you are exploring at the time (for example: Jelly Beans at Easter, Conversation Hearts on Valentine’s Day). Also, you can have the students make patterns or make shapes using their edible manipulatives. I am aware that there are many math lessons using edible manipulatives; this lesson is a little different because the students add and estimate with their edible manipulatives.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 1

        • Measurement & Data
          • 1.MD.4 Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.
        • Operations & Algebraic Thinking
          • 1.OAT.1 Use addition and subtraction within 20 to solve word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions, e.g., by using objects, drawings, and equations with a symbol...
      • Kindergarten

        • Counting & Cardinality
          • K.CC.4Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities; connect counting to cardinality. When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only...
          • K.CC.5Count to answer “how many?” questions about as many as 20 things arranged in a line, a rectangular array, or a circle, or as many as 10 things in a scattered configuration; given a number from 1–20, count out that many objects.
          • K.CC.6Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies.1
        • Measurement & Data
          • K.MD.2Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of”/“less of” the attribute, and describe the difference. For example, directly compare the heights of two children and describe one child as taller/shorter.
          • K.MD.3Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count.1
        • Operations & Algebraic Thinking
          • K.OAT.1Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings1, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)


  • Goal 1: Number and Operations - The learner will recognize, model, and write whole numbers through 30.
    • Objective 1.01: Develop number sense for whole numbers through 30.
      • Connect model, number word (orally), and number, using a variety of representations.
      • Count objects in a set.
      • Read and write numerals.
      • Compare and order sets and numbers.
      • Use ordinals (1st-10th).
      • Estimate quantities fewer than or equal to 10.
      • Recognize equivalence in sets and numbers 1-10.
  • Goal 5: Algebra - The learner will model simple patterns and sort objects.
    • Objective 5.01: Sort and classify objects by one attribute.