Fall Math Activities

Fall ushers in the seasonal holidays and classroom teachers and students are eager to capture the spirit of the holidays. It is very easy to incorporate mathematical concepts and skills built around these common themes. Whatever concept your class is currently developing, there are fun ways to incorporate math: estimation, measurement, basic facts, problem solving, discrete math, probability, graphing, data collection, geometry, etc.

When planning seasonal activities, be sure that the activity is mathematically rich and supports student learning or provides additional practice of basic facts and other skills. Sneak in some seasonal problem solving and introduce some seasonal games in the math center. Seasonal math activities can and should be more than pumpkins on a worksheet.

Standards/Objectives: The Fall 2008 collection is organized by Standards/Objectives to make it easier for teachers to coordinate activities to match current units of learning. Here are some suggestions for including seasonal themes in your regular mathematical lessons. Be sure to also check the other Mathwire Fall collections for additional activities, games and problem solving.


Estimation Station: Establish a regular center in the room which changes weekly. A simple clear plastic container is filled with different items each week. These items should vary in size to challenge students' developing concept of volume, as it relates to smaller or larger units. Use seasonal items: acorns, leaves, candy corn, popcorn kernels, pumpkin seeds, etc. to spark student interest. Keep a class journal of these activities in which students may record their estimates. Record the item and the actual count along with a digital picture, if possible, of the container and the student(s) whose estimates were closest. Some classes involve parents by asking for volunteers to send in appropriate items to be counted. It is important to use the same container for several weeks so that students build an understanding that size matters in estimating how many items there are in the jar.

  • Download Estimation Station Recording Sheets to use for this activity. Keep sheets in a binder to provide a growing record of student growth in estimating.
  • Suggestions for using recording sheets: Have each student write his/her name and estimate on Page 2. After counting, circle or color in the student(s) whose estimates were closest. Teachers may elect to print in names at the beginning of the year and simply copy each week so that student names are always in the same location for easy checking.
  • Take a picture: Use a digital camera to record the winner(s) holding the jar each week. Add the picture to page one by simply covering the estimation jar clip art.

Math-Literature Connection - Estimation: The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Stephen Kroll would be a great literature connection for a Huge Pumpkin Estimation Station or to introduce a class pumpkin sorting activity.

Math-Literature Connection - Estimation: The Candy Corn Contest by Patricia Reilly Giff would be a great literature connection for a Candy Corn Estimation Station, as described in the book. The sneaky teacher in this story required that students read a page in a library book for each guess they submitted. Math teachers might vary this requirement to include some fun math practice as a way to earn guessing rights. Either way, incorporating the actual candy corn jar estimation is a great seasonal variation of the Estimation Station described above.



  • Symmetric Leaf Patterns: Have students create symmetric leaves. Use one full sheet of construction paper and half a sheet of a second color. Students trace one half of their leaf on the half-sheet, making the edge a line of symmetry for the leaf. Cut out the half leaf and save the "leftover" paper. Fold the full sheet of paper in half. Glue the half leaf on one side of the fold. Glue the "leftover" cutout on the other side of the fold to create the symmetric leaf pattern.
  • Class Symmetry Quilt: Choose fall colors for the quilt and have each student create a symmetric leaf pattern using different leaves. Assemble student symmetric leaf patterns into a class symmetry quilt. This makes a stunning fall bulletin board and a great display of natural symmetry.
  • Leaf Symmetry: Find more leaf symmetry activities in Math Cats Leaf Math.
  • Symmetric Faces: Halloween masks become a math activity when students create Symmetric Faces. See Symmetric Faces for directions to make these unique masks using 1.5 sheets of construction paper, scissors and glue.
  • Symmetric Faces Photo Gallery: Be sure to check out the Symmetric Faces Photo Gallery for pictures of symmetric faces to get your creative juices flowing. Take digital pictures to create your own photo gallery on your class website.
  • Symmetric Pumpkin Challenge: Students are challenged to draw in the missing half of the pumpkin. Download the Symmetric Pumpkin Template to try with your students.

Coordinate Graphing

Coordinate Graphing Art: These activities require students to use coordinate pairs to correctly color in the squares of the grid to create a fall picture.

  • Jack-o-Lantern: download the instructions for the Jack-o-Lantern coordinate graphing activity.
  • Monster: download the instructions for the Mad Monster? coordinate graphing activity.
  • Graphing Greenery challenges students to trace leaves on grid paper, then identify and list coordinate points so that classmates are able to recreate their leaves, using only the coordinates.

Coordinate Graphing Games:

  • Play Grab the Candy Corn Game which requires students to toss two dice, form an ordered pair, and remove a candy from that space, if possible. The game can be played with counters or with real candy for a holiday treat that is appropriate from Halloween through Thanksgiving. The file contains the gameboard, directions, candy counters and a recording sheet.
  • Catch the Spider Game: students try to catch their opponent's spiders by identifying the correct coordinate pair. If the student fails to find the spider, then he/she is caught in the web and loses his/her turn for that round. There are two 5-point spiders and ten 2-point spiders to be caught, making the game a bit more challenging as students try to capture the most points.
  • See more Mathwire Coordinate Geometry Activities including Clean Up the Money and Grab the Candy (M&M version) games.


  • Math-Literature Connection - Probability: Read There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat by Lucille Colandro, then;
    • Enjoy the Batty Old Lady Probability activities.
    • Use Scholastic's Edible Estimation suggestion to incorporate measurement into this book talk. Scroll down the Scholastic page to locate this section.
    • After reading the book, investigate Batty Old Lady Probability, Students spin to collect all of the items the Batty Old Lady swallowed, and tally each spin on the recording sheet. They then calculate the total spins it took them to get all 7 items, and add that figure to the class data. Teachers may help students analyze the class data and learn about probability in the process. The pdf document includes directions, game mat, picture cards, spinner, recording sheet and writing to learn handout.
    • Download Old Lady template to use in retelling the story
    • After reading, enjoy the original There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly book, enjoy the Old Lady and Probability lessons.
    • Use the Old Lady reproducible for students to design their own versions of the story.
    • Use Scholastic's Edible Estimation suggestion to incorporate measurement into this book talk. Scroll down the Scholastic page to locate this section.

Play math games to develop students' conceptual understanding of probability. Have students collect data, analyze the data, graph the data and write about their findings. Provide time for students to play games several times so that they are able to use their knowledge of probability to better control the outcome.

  • Spider Game-1 develops student understanding of the probability of the outcomes of tossing a single die. This game is a twist on Pig in that tossing a 6 means the spider takes all of the counters you have been able to remove from the board. The PDF file contains the gameboard, directions and a student recording sheet.
  • Spider Game-2 uses two dice to develop student understanding of how probability changes with the additional die.
  • The Fat Bat Game puts a spin on the traditional game of Pig, challenging students to analyze the probability of a single die and apply their conclusions to win the game.


The credit goes to Rutgers Discrete Math Program for initiating the Pascal's Triangle activities for elementary students. Pascal's Pumpkins and Pascal's Ghosts are reproductions ofsamples from this initiative. The others are seasonal variations also built on this famous pattern. The PDF files contain student worksheets, directions, answer sheets with explanations for teachers to help students discover some of the patterns in this famous triangle.

Math-Literature Connection - Patterns: See Bat Math-Literature Connections for information on the Kathi Appelt Bats series which build on mathematical patterns and themes.

  • Bats on Parade by Kathi Appelt
  • Bats Around the Clock by Kathi Appelt
  • Bat Jamboree by Kathi Appelt

Fall Problem Solving

Consider writing your own Halloween word problems incorporating your students' names and requiring students to apply concepts and skills they are currently learning or need to practice. Students are strongly motivated by seeing their names and classmates' names. They might even write some of their own problems, demonstrating higher-order thinking skills in the process.

  • Check out the Halloween Word Problems written by Tammie Holcombe and Karen Zeigler, second grade teachers at Port Monmouth Road School in Keansburg, NJ.

The following open-ended assessments require students to apply mathematical concepts and skills to solve problems and explain their thinking using words, pictures and numbers.

  • Candy Corn presents a triangular numbers problem using a candy corn pattern. Younger students might use candy corn to model the problem. A sample solution shows how older students might use an input-output table to model the pattern and find the solution without the use of manipulatives.
  • Younger students will enjoy analyzing and completing Fall Patterns. They should then classify the pattern and explain their reasoning as part of the class discussion. It is possible that students will see different patterns in some of the items so their explanation and justification are very important mathematical discourse.
  • Annual Fall Parade challenges students to use the triangular pattern to figure out how many students are in the fourth grade. Given the number of full rows, students must apply the pattern and use effective recording (picture, table, etc.) to explain their reasoning.
  • Solve Insect and Spider Problems. Given the number of legs and heads, students must figure out how many are insects (6 legs) and how many are spiders (8 legs). The pdf file is formatted to print out individual problem cards that may be placed in a math center for student use. Answer key cards are also included.
    • NOTE: A very effective strategy is for students to assume that all heads are insects and determine how many legs were used. Then they distribute the leftover legs, 2 to each insect to create spiders until all of the legs are used.
    • Students might also use the Insect and Spider Problem Spreadsheet as a strategy that uses technology to help in problem solving. Right click on the link and save the spreadsheet to your computer for easy classroom use. The spreadsheet is already configured for student use. They should only type in the yellow spaces as the spreadsheet will compute the other columns. Use an overhead monitor or projection system to model using the spreadsheet.
  • Challenge students to figure out how many things you receive in total during the Twelve Days of Halloween.
  • Motivate students to try their hand at some code-breaking with Crypto-Lists for Halloween and Thanksgiving.
  • See Pumpkin Problem Solving from the Fall 2005 collection involves repeating patterns, discrete math, Pascal's triangle and combinations.
  • More Fall Problem Solving from the Fall 2006 collection includes Halloween word problems, Fall fraction words, Pascal's Bats and problems that require the use of an input-output table to analyze the pattern.

Fall Math-Literature Connections

Many books may be used as a springboard for mathematical discussions and activities. These are included to integrate fall themes into mathematics:

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat by Lucille Colandro

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

Ten Apples Up on Top by Theo Le Sieg

After enjoying the book, and counting the apples on the various pages, have students create counting booklets with a page for each number 1-10. They may draw that many apples on their head.

Create the fall sequel booklet, Ten Pumpkins Up on Top, in which students balance pumpkins on their heads. The pdf file contains a cover and a sample student page that may be copied so that students can draw pictures of themselves in costume, balancing 10 pumpkins. Or, create a class counting booklet with each student balancing increasing numbers of pumpkins, as assigned.

Themed Math Activities

These activity collections are designed around common themes. These math activities coordinate with math-literature or science units of study. Consider adding some of the activities to your math center, or use games on game day to extend the themed approach to math time. Each collection includes a variety of activities such as math-literature connections, games, counting and addition mats, problem solving, data collection, and probability.

  • The Mathwire Bats collection includes Pascal's Bats, graphing ideas, Math-Literature connections, the Fat Bat game, bat problem solving and bat links.
  • The Mathwire Spiders collection includes a spider web math mat, name collection spiders, spider glyphs, spider graphing, Math-Literature connections, Catch the Spider Game, Spider Game-1, Spider Game-2, Spider Web Map Coloring Game, Insect and Spider problems and spider links.
  • See all Mathwire Math Activity Themes which presently include Gingerbread Men, Penguins, Quilts and Snowmen.

Seasonal Counting & Addition Mats

Seasonal mats are a welcome addition to the classroom math center. Teachers may use these in a number of ways to help students master math skills. Read more about using math mats in the Mathwire Math Mats Resources which includes using place value mats, seasonal mats, domino mats and fact family mats.

Spider Web Mat: students may use play spiders or spider rings to model addition stories on this spider web math mat. Leaf Mat: students may use available manipulatives to model addition stories on the leaf. Insect or ladybug counters would work well with this theme. Crazy Spider Mat: students use small pipe cleaner legs to create crazy spiders. First die roll tells student how many legs to add to one side of the spider. The second die roll tells students how many legs to add to the other side of the spider. How many legs does his/her spider have in all? If it's not 4 on each side, then the student has created a Crazy Spider.
  • Turkey Mat and Feathers: students use the feathers to model addition stories.
  • Pumpkin Mat: students my use any manipulatives to model addition stories on the pumpkin mat.

Fall Glyphs

Each of these glyphs capture data about students in a visual mode.   Students should analyze the class data by creating tally charts, Venn diagrams, bar graphs, etc. and writing about what they learned from looking at the glyphs of their classmates.

  • Check out Shari Sloane's outstanding Glyphs Resource page for pictures of glyphs, pdf handouts of glyph legends and math-literature book connections for all seasons. The collection includes a scarecrow glyph, apple glyph, pumpkin glyph, haunted house glyph, turkey glyph and owl glyph.
  • Jack-o-Lantern Glyph from Fall 2006 Math Activities collection.
  • Scarecrow Glyph
  • Jack-o-Lantern Glyph
  • Witch Glyph
  • Turkey Glyph
  • See Owl Glyph: scroll down to the bottom of the page for pictures and pdf files
  • Haunted House glyph: scroll down page for pictures and pdf files

More Mathwire Seasonal Math Activities

These math activities collections are organized by seasons.   Elementary teachers often incorporate seasonal activities as craft projects.   Many of these seasonal craft projects can be mathematical as well with a little forethought.   Browse the activities for projects to add that reinforce mathematical concepts and skills through seasonal and holiday themes.