Literature Connection:

Math Curse by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith

Mathematical Strand:



Students will use estimation and measurement skills to make predictions and solve problems involving length.

Grade Level:


Lesson Created by:

Jean Johnson, Fort Riley Middle School, Fort Riley, KS

LESSON Description


  • Math Curse, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith; ten M & Ms per student (optional), rulers, meter sticks, chart of metric units, measurement conversion charts, pencils, paper

1. Launching the Lesson (engage):

  1. Read the story.
  2. I used transparencies of some of the pages so students would also have a visual as well as auditory representation.

2. Developing the Lesson:

  1. Turn to the Social Studies page of the book about the Mississippi River
  2. Pose the question: "How many M & Ms would it take to measure the length of the Mississippi River?"
  3. Have students work in groups to solve this problem. Make sure students have working knowledge of and/or resources about metric prefixes.
  4. Give each student ten M & Ms as a visual manipulative (optional).
  5. Have students share their strategy and solution with the class. Be sure to emphasize correct metric conversions.

3. Closure/Discussion/Elaboration

  1. Discuss the other ways one could measure the Mississippi River.
  2. Have the students figure out how many one-pound bags of M & Ms it would take to measure the length of the Mississippi River.
  3. Once the students have discovered how many bags it would take, have them calculate how much it would cost to purchase those bags.
  4. Several students suggested that we calculate how many calories there would be in that many M & Ms, or how much weight you would gain if you ate all the M & Ms that it took to measure the Mississippi River. Personally, I didn’t want to go there...

Teacher notes:

  • The actual diameter of an M & M is approximately 1.3 cm. For practical purposes, we rounded to 1 cm. I found that there are approximately 40 M & Ms in the 1/4 cup serving size that is listed on the one-pound package. There are 11 servings in each one-pound bag. The packages I purchased were on sale for 2 for $5. (More chances to discuss per unit rates.)

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Copyright 2001 S.Ma.R.T.Books and Kansas State University