Jack 'o Lantern Addition Equations

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SWBAT work with a partner to create a jack 'o lantern that contains an addition equation and details.

Big Idea

This is a fun, seasonal approach that stresses creativity and teamwork as students practice basic addition equations. It can be altered for other seasons, as well.

Attention Grabber/Introduction

5 minutes

“Buddies!” I begin, “Today, we aren’t just working together—we’re making stuff together!   In perfect time for Halloween… we are making jack o’ lanterns!  Are you ready to see what you will do?”

Students yell, “Yes!”

I get my buddy, Mrs. Conrad, to come up to the document camera, and together, we model how to “team up” to trace around a large pumpkin shape.  I hold the tracer onto a 9” X 12” piece of orange construction paper, and she demonstrates tracing all around the pumpkin shape.

Meanwhile, I take a smaller scrap of black construction paper, roughly 5” X 6” (although the size doesn’t really matter, to be honest), and I begin cutting simple, triangular eyes and a big, funky mouth.

We demonstrate taking turns to glue the eyes down and follow with the mouth.

I talk to Mrs. Conrad about what we should add together.  We mention the big math word, “equation,” which means “number sentence,” and we talk about what we want to add together.  She says 2, and I say I like 2, also!  We agree that we can add 2 + 2. 

We show the addends—the 2’s—by drawing 2 triangles around each eye to represent the 2’s that we are adding.

Then, we write the equation, the number sentence, in the mouth:  2 + 2 = 4.  [On the demonstration, I use yellow in an attempt to make it look like my jack o’ lantern is glowing, but white crayon or white color pencil is best.)

“2nd graders”, I caution, “We know you can add lots of really big numbers.  We are just starting out, so we need your sums to be 5 or less, okay?” 

They nod in agreement, but to check for understanding, I ask, “So can you add 3 + 2?” Students correctly answer “Yes!”  Then I continue, “Can you add 5 + 5?” Before a silly 2nd grader can say “Yes,” I hold up my 2 palms, fingers outstretched.  “is this less than 5?”  I ask. 

“Noooo!” students correctly answer. 

I follow up.  “So can you add 5 + 5?”


“Less than how many all together?” I ask again, to clarify.  (If we are uncertain on our directions, who knows what we may be creating!)

“5!” students respond. 

We are looking ready to go!

Independent Practice

20 minutes

Our buddies are pre-assigned, so most of the kiddos look for the buddy they team up with each week and get busy right away.  A few students need help finding their buddy, but we help pair them up quickly and get their supplies.

The kindergartners are working on tracing and cutting the pumpkins.  Some 2nd graders are helping their buddy by holding the pumpkin tracer, which is so cool to see. 

Meanwhile, the second graders are cutting eyes, a mouth, and occasionally a nose for the jack ‘o lanterns.  They are consulting with their little buddies, and it is so cute to hear them talking.  “Okay, so what kind of eyes should I make?” one buddy asks.  Her buddy tells her triangle, and I smile up my teacher buddy in recognition of the extra shape practice.  (Just a little bonus!)

When writing the number sentence, the kids tend to copy my equation, so I do my best to encourage them to make their own number sentence.  We didn’t provide specific instruction as to which buddy should be writing the numbers in the equations, but the groups are working very collaboratively, for the most part.  When the buddies get off track, we quickly ask a redirecting question to gently nudge them back to productivity.

The students draw white rings around their jack ‘o lantern’s eyes to match the quantities of the addends in the equation.  They are really precise about this part, and it dawns on me that this is an activity where students have plenty of built-in success, even though we haven’t had much experience writing equations.  Buddies—and a creative, festive outlet—make all the difference!


10 minutes

As students finish their addition jack ’o lanterns, we snap a quick picture on an iPad and use AirServer to instantly project the buddy pictures on “the big screen.”  Now, it’s not exactly like being on the JumboTron at a major sports venue, but in this classroom with these silly, proud kiddos, it’s practically that big.  When a photo is snapped and it’s projected up on “the big screen,” everybody stops to admire the lucky pair and their one of a kind jack-o’lantern!  It’s like “Freeze Dance without the dance!

We point out details of each pairs’ creations, including beautifully written numbers or equations, creative details on the jack’ ‘o lantern shapes, and simply great addition.  Being specific helps the students know what we’re looking for and provides some models for students who are finishing up.

I like to add that each jack ‘o lantern, like each one of them, is different, and that being one-of-a-kind is a really cool thing! We compare scary eyes and silly eyes, mouths with teeth and mouths without, carefully to note details but be very positive.  That feeling of pride seems so present in the room.

When asked about what they liked about the lesson, students of course, say they liked working with their buddies, (although there are two pairs of buddies who are actually brother and sister buddies.  They don’t always gush about working with their little brothers, but the 2nd grade girls are certainly good sports!)  Other students say they like making stuff. 

As we wrap up, the buddies say “goodbye” with a hug or a high-five, and we promise to meet up again for more fun next week.