Math was never my favorite subject as a kid. But candy was always a hit.
I loved trick or treating in costume, but I think I loved sorting and analyzing my Halloween candy almost as much as I loved eating it. Halloween was part of the early childhood experience that led me to a career in tech. Nowadays I analyze social media hashtags. But once upon a time, it was Snickers bars. There are more similarities than you might think!
Remembering how much fun I used to have sorting my Halloween haul, I came up with this Halloween Homeschool STEM Activity to do with my own kids.
There’s still plenty to be said for analyzing Snickers, Starbursts and Babe Ruth bars. You can learn a lot about society from the size and types of candy handed out from year to year. Even if it’s not strict science, it’s fun to predict, pontificate and analyze.
Of course in order to analyze your candy and make some predictions, first you must gather some actual numbers.
Prior to trick or treating we guessed what kind of candy we’d end up with. Spoiler alert – we were way off, it was a weird year! We agreed to count only the candy collected by the end of the night in our final analysis, and not contaminate the sample with any leftover candy we did not hand out from our own stash. Armed with costumes and trick or treat bags, I sent my analysts out into the world.
Fox was a creepy (VERY CREEPY!) fortune teller.
Leo was a perfect Ron Weasley.
Both boys collected candy for a little over two hours in our own neighborhood and a nearby tract. After collecting we commenced what we annually call the “big sort”.
We’ve made notes in the past, but this year after the sort was completed we used a google form to enter a little more info. This year we created fields for:
- Candy Name
- Number of pieces collected
- Size of the pieces
- Type of candy (chocolate etc)
- Whether the candy was allergy friendly for peanut, gluten or dairy allergies
- Whether they wished to keep or swap the candy.
Whew! That is a lot of data. I love a simple Google forms for entering data because it is so much more friendly than working with a big unwieldy spreadsheet. When you click on responses you can view a summary with charts or view/save as a spreadsheet, and then generate your own charts.
After we entered all the data, we also generated some nifty charts that helped us visualize the data a little better. It’s easy to see how much of our candy was chocolate, and what brands were the most popular!
Finally we compared the collection with our expectations and discussed what all the data might mean. This is the fun part where we get to pontificate and do a little trend watching/ trend forecasting.
Some example questions to discuss:
- How different are this year’s numbers from last years?
- What might some reasons be for the differences?
- Are a lot of “full sized” candies a sign of a good economy?
- Are a lot of a particular type of variety of candies likely due to the fact that this type of candy was on sale at the local market?
- Are there more or less allergy friendly candies than we thought there would be?
and of course,
- How brilliant is our local dentist neighbor for taking this opportunity to hand out branded toothbrushes?
Can you make an argument predicting the winner of the upcoming Presidential election, based on the candy you collected?*
While we cannot draw any scientific conclusions, other than the fact that we have WAY too much candy on our hands, this was a fun activity that I think encourages STEM thinking, and an entrepreneurial mind. If you can understand Halloween candy supply and demand, there’s probably little you can’t do.