Learning with Lucky Charms and Leprechauns

There’s something about St. Patrick’s Day when the Irish in me makes me wants to make sure I’m decked out in my green, dance a little jig, and whip up the obligatory corned beef and cabbage for dinner (just like my mom used to make). Although those may be on the agenda, we’re also all about having some fun by playing with food and reading a little bit about those mischievous leprechauns…

5 Math Games with Lucky Charms

1. EstimateEstimate Cereal

You could estimate how many pieces are in the snack bowl (3 or 300?) or estimate how many broken pieces will be at the bottom of the snack bowl. Estimating plays a key role as children develop their number sense. It’s important that children know they aren’t expected to be exactly right when they estimate. In simple terms, estimating means making a good guess. This is hard concept for younger children to grasp, but you can certainly introduce it and talk about what that means. You can reinforce to kids (especially those who tend to be perfectionists) that it’s okay for your estimation to be different than the actual number. They aren’t expected to be exactly “right!”

You may notice children’s number sense developing when they look at a group of five and know what 5 is without counting each one. Keep encouraging this skill if you see it!

2. Make Cereal Patterns

There are two kinds of patterns we can focus on:

1. Repeating patterns: When multiple items repeat. Teachers may label them AB patterns (blue, red, blue, red) or ABB patterns (blue, red, red, blue, red, red) or ABC patterns (blue, red, yellow, blue, red, yellow), etc.

2. Growing patterns: When you see items expanding, such as: 1 red, 2 blue, 3 yellow, etc. (or 2, 4, 6, etc.)

Let you child see what patterns they come up with independently. See what different patterns they can create with the cereal and what characteristics or attributes set them apart (cereal vs. marshmallows, cereal with holes or without holes, cereal with pointy edges or curved lines, etc.)

You can start one, let them continue the pattern. One characteristic of a pattern is that it continues forever, so one could never really be “finished!”

3. Graph the Marshmallows Graphing Cereal

Sort marshmallows and line them vertically OR horizontally to create a graph (flexible thinking). We used a cooling rack set upside down on top of a white piece of paper to see the grid marks. You could then use crayons to color in the squares and/or write the numbers in the squares.

Ask questions:

  • Which kind of marshmallow did we have the most of?
  • How many shamrock hats and stars?
  • Mow many more/fewer ____ than ____?

4. Skip CountSkip Counting Cereal

Count out groups of 10, 5, or 2, and practice skip counting the cereal.

5. Create Word Problems

You can definitely adapt this to whatever your child is learning about or as a review to add, subtract, multiply, or divide numbers. Use different wording so children become exposed to different vocabulary.

Examples:

  • My mom gave me 5 marshmallows and my dad gave me 2. How many do I have altogether?
  • If I have 12 shamrock hats and I give 6 (or half) away to my brother, how many do I have now?
  • We had 24 pieces of cereal and wanted to split it into 6 equal groups. How many would each person have?

Addition vocabulary: in all, altogether, total, combine, join, plus, total, sum, more

Subtraction vocabulary: minus, less, subtract, take away, give away, fewer, difference

Multiplication: product, groups of, multiplied by, times, arrays (make grids of __ x __ pieces)

Division: share equally, quotient, equal groups

Teacher Tip: Whenever possible, encourage your child to practice answering your questions in complete sentences. If you ask, “If I had 13 pieces of cereal, and I gave away 6, how many pieces of cereal would I have left?” Encourage them to say, “I would have 7 pieces left.” This is helping them to build their oral language skills and helping them understand what a sentence is.

Reading: Comparing the Leprechauns

And why IS that leprechaun always after the Lucky Charms? What are leprechauns all about? Find out together. Whether you find books at the library, bookstore, or you already have some of your own, one extension you can take is looking at or comparing character traits of the leprechauns. Perhaps they are:

  • mischievous
  • greedy
  • sneaky
  • mean
  • nice
  • silly
  • curious

How do you know? Find out where in the book or how your child knows the leprechaun is sneaky. What did the leprechaun do or say to make you think that? Find the “evidence” in the book.

Here are a few of my favorite St. Patrick’s Day stories (contains affiliate links):

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Learning with Lucky Charms and Leprechauns