Q is for Quotient – using candy bars.

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I am so excited to take part in the A to Z Stem Activities for Kid Series. This is a series of activities designed to make it easier to teach Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to children. The whole series is made up of fantastic activities themed around a letter of the alphabet. My letter is Q.

Q is for quotient. But what is a quotient? A quotient is the answer to a division problem.  How are you going to make this concept concrete?  Not only that, how are you going to get your kids excited about learning about quotients? That’s easy!  Use candy bars!

First: Go buy some candy bars.  Buy as many candy bars as there will be children dividing them. I chose five different varieties: Hershey’s, Rolos, Skittles, Reese’s, and Kit Kat.  I chose these particular candy bars because they already had pre-divided pieces.  You may choose your favorite candy bars.

Next, ask the kids if they want to earn some candy. The answer, of course, will be a resounding yes with a smattering of giggles.

Now, tell them the rules.

The Rules:
1. Every bowl must have the same amount of each type of candy in it before it can be eaten.
2. Everyone must be given time and space to consider how to divide up their candy bar.
3. Youngest to oldest to determine who divides up which candy.

Now, everyone is excited and paying close attention as the youngest child selects the candy. Our preschooler selected the bag of Skittles.

Some questions to help prompt younger children as they start dividing the candy:
What are ways you could share these out so everyone has the same amount?
How many Skittles do you have?
How many groups of 10 can you make?

Our preschooler counted 6 groups of 10 and had 2 left over. Because she is four, I gave the 2 left over to the “remainder eater” otherwise known as the baby. Then I asked her what she could do with her groups of Skittles. She suggested placing one complete group into one bowl. Then she had a dilemma – what to do with the last 10 Skittles. At first she suggested our “remainder eater”, but Mommy said no. So then she suggested dropping one Skittle into each bowl and going in rounds until the Skittles were gone. We all thought that was a great idea, and every bowl got 10 plus 2, or 12, Skittles. We counted the Skittles when they were all divided.

Next, our Kindergartener selected the Hershey’s bar. The nice thing about a Hershey’s bar is that it’s made up of 12 small Hershey’s bars.

Here are some of the questions we asked our Kindergartener:
How many little Hershey bars are there?
How many do you think each bowl will get?
What will you do with the remaining 2 pieces?
Which we asked as he was already actively breaking them apart.

Our Kindergartener really got into breaking the bars apart. He very efficiently shared out the two pieces every bowl would have. Then, before any discussion, he started breaking the remaining two pieces into smaller and smaller pieces until every bowl had another third, and eighth – approximately. His quotient wasn’t especially accurate after the whole number was divided out.

Our second grader was next to pick. He chose the Rolos. He found out the Rolos weren’t going to be very easy once he counted only eight in the package. He gave one Rolos to each bowl, and then we asked him some questions:

How many more Rolos do you need?
What are some ways you could cut the remaining three to get the number you need?

His first response to the question “How will you cut the remaining Rolos?” was “Very carefully.” We all had a good laugh at that. Then, he suggested cutting each Rolos in to fifths, but decided that was a bit beyond his skill. So, we discussed other options. We ended up giving every bowl one other half and a tenth of a Rolos.

The next to pick was our fourth grader. She picked the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. Her division was the most difficult to perform. She needed to divide each cup into fifths. Fortunately, the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups come with a built in measuring system: the ripples on the sides.

Questions to ask:
Could you use the ripples as a measuring device to make sure the slices of the cup were even?
How many ripples are there?
What is that number divided by five?

She cut the cups into five even slices each.

And then it was Mommy’s and baby’s turn.We got the Kit Kat by default and needed to have five 4/5 portions from the bar. Our Kit Kat came out pre-broken, so that made it a bit more difficult to share evenly. After piecing the Kit Kat back together, I sliced off the end fifth of each piece.

This is a really fun activity with a lot of relevant (for our kids) application of division, remainders, and quotients. The only drawback . . . we didn’t have the kids make bowls of candy for the parents too. Maybe next time . . . although dividing candy seven ways is a lot harder than five.

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