A beautiful book caught my eye at the library the other day and about a million ideas popped into my head for how we could do some fun learning. I got the vibrant, extra large-format, How Many Jellybeans? by Andrea Menotti and picked up a bag of jellybeans at the store. From math to science to art to reading, we got a lot of learning out of our jellybeans!

How Many Jellybeans

First off, we read the book. It’s a humorous story of two kids who are deciding how many jellybeans they can eat. A handful quickly escalates to thousands! The dialogue is easy to read and would be perfect for kids and parents to take turns reading aloud the different parts and pretending to be the two kids. There’s also a funny dog who gives good reactions as the numbers go higher and higher.

How Many Jellybeans? by Andrea Menotti

The book is also great for explaining the concept of larger numbers. Each page gives a representation of how many jellybeans the number would be. It all culminates in a fold out page with one million. It reminds me a little of How Much is a Million? but with a much more modern feel and I think more a more tangible example.

I really liked how this book gave the kids a grasp on the larger numbers, which can seem so abstract. After we had read the book a few times, I got out the Base 10 blocks and we used those to reinforce the idea that 10 ones is a ten, 10 tens is a hundred, etc. I don’t think he 100% gets it yet, but that’s fine. I want to give them as many different exposures to difficult concepts as possible. We will keep talking about it in many contexts until it clicks one day.

How Many Jellybeans - Counting by 10

Next, I pulled out a bag of real jellybeans and asked the kids if they would help me count them. There was entirely too much excitement from two kids who have actually never even tasted jellybeans! We opened the bag and started to count. It was quickly apparent that we needed to make the task of counting easier than counting by ones. We tried fives, but quickly saw that we needed to count by tens.

So we made groups of ten on a large paper and drew a circle around each group. After a few, he started adding two smaller circles together to make ten. We looked at our Hundreds Chart and counted them up.

1:1 Correspondence - How Many Jellybeans?

For my 2.5 year old, I wanted to include her in this activity. While he was busy counting, I set aside some for her to work on her own counting with one-to-one correspondence. Small kids will often memorize numbers and be able to rattle off one through twenty when asked. But they might not have an actual understanding of the number’s meaning. That’s where one-to-one correspondence comes in.

I drew these little cards for her with the numbers through ten and dots for each number. The dots are a good way to visualize the quantity of each number and help some kids when it comes to basic math functions. She’s very visual so I am thinking she may respond to this. She carefully placed the jellybeans over each dot while counting out how many she had. Unsurprisingly, she also ate about as many as she counted.

How Many Jellybeans are pink? - Color Sorting

Our work quickly turned to color sorting when she wanted to eat only pink jellybeans. I drew color-coded circles on the back of the paper so we could sort them. There were many with different shades of a color, so we had discussions about these. Some had more than one color. We used a Venn Diagram to illustrate the red, orange, and orange with red flecks.

More than One Color Venn Diagrams - How Many Jellybeans

We also decided to make a quick bar graph to show which group was the largest. It was a good review of greater than/less than and a nice introduction to bar graphs.

Which color has the most? - How Many Jellybeans?

Finally, my son asked if he could ‘mess around’ with the leftover jellybeans. ‘Mess around’ is five-year-old speak for ‘experiment with.’ I gave him freedom to do whatever. He added water (noticing how the water changed color and deducing that they must contain some sort of food coloring) and he also froze some. Mixing all the colors together made the water turn a disgusting brownish-blackish-green. So that was awesome.

Basically, we got seven lessons out of the one book and a bag of jellybeans. There are more things that could be done. More addition and subtraction would fit easily. But I felt like this was enough jellybeans for one day!

From counting to colors and graphing to experimenting: Use jellybeans for 7 different lessons along with the book How Many Jellybeans? by Andrea Menotti

  1. Reading- Read aloud How Many Jellybeans? and take turns reading each part.
  2. Math- Discuss the quantity that each number represents using Base 10 blocks. Explain 10s, 100s, 1,000s, 10,000s, 100,000s and 1,000,000s and relative quantities.
  3. Math- Practice 1:1 correspondence with number dot cards and jellybeans.
  4. Math- Use jellybeans to count by tens (or another unit) try including addition and subtraction into the groups.
  5. Art- Sort by color and discuss differences in shade.
  6. Art- Create Venn Diagram to illustrate multicolored jellybeans.
  7. Math- Make a bar graph of color frequency.
  8. Science Bonus- Experiment with jellybeans.

Side note: Medela breastmilk storage containers make excellent lab equipment!

How many jellybeans can you eat? What are you favorite books that illustrate math concepts?

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