How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas is a charming book with several great teaching opportunities. The story is about Mr. Tiffen’s elementary school class and what they learn about pumpkins, math and other great life lessons. Mr. Tiffen brings in 3 pumpkins, one small, one medium and one large. He wants to know how many seeds are in each pumpkin. Does the size of the pumpkin make a difference? The underlying theme of the story is about being small. Is being small a bad thing? Everyday Mr. Tiffen lines up the class from the tallest child to the shortest child. The shortest child in the class is Charlie and he feels bad because he is always at the end of the line.
How Do We Count How Many Seeds in A Pumpkin?
Mr. Tiffen wants his class to guess how many seeds are in each pumpkin. This task brings in the concept of estimation. He provides a hands-on experience where the children actually take all the seeds out of each pumpkin. Of course, this is a very messy, slimy job as anyone knows who has taken the seeds out of a pumpkin. The class did a good job though and got all the seeds out. Then for homework they had to think about how to count all the seeds.
Ideas on How to Count the Seeds
The children came up with the idea to do skip counting, that is to count by 2’s, 5’s or 10’s. So they count the largest pumpkin’s seeds by 2’s, the medium’s by 5’s and the smallest by 10’s. This is a very concrete math lesson on counting, skip counting and how skip counting in the end makes it easier to count all the seeds. If you order the seeds in groups then it makes it easier. Just imagine if you lose your place half way through and you have to start over. If the seeds are in groups it is faster to count them again.
The Smallest Pumpkin Has the Most Seeds!
The smallest pumpkin has the most seeds which surprised everyone in the class. This is a help to Charlie, the shortest kid in the class, because he says, “Small things can have a lot going on inside them.” This is a wonderful lesson for him to learn!
There are several good learning experiences that are brought alive in this book:
- Simple facts about pumpkins
- Mathematical concepts become more real: counting, estimating, skip counting
- Children experience the benefits of using these counting methods.
- Positive emotional feelings about being small
- Advantages of working together as a group
- Good tactile experiences as they clean out the pumpkins
How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? is a great story and classroom activity for elementary age school children. For more details see The Pumpkin Project: Math, Science and Fun. If you would like to order a book click on the image below.