Literature Connection:

Math Curse by Jon Scieszka

Mathematics Strand:



Students will practice estimation skills for measurement, and will work with metric units

Grade level:


Lesson Created by:

Shannon Kent, Fort Riley Middle School, Fort Riley, KS

LESSON Description


  • Book: Math Curse, paper and pencil, rulers with cm, snack size M&M bags

1. Engage:

  1. Read the story as you read, point out all of the math problems the little girl is facing discuss how math is everywhere!
  2. Go to the part in the book where the girl talks about measuring the Mississippi River with M&M's, point out the river is 4000km. (They also should know that an M&M is about 1 cm long this part would be good to let the students discover on their own!)

2. Developing the Lesson:

  1. Pose the question to the class, "Do you think it would be feasible to measure the Mississippi River using M&M's?" Also ask: "Why did the book use kilometers as the unit for measure, instead of centimeters or meters?" Discuss these, allow students to come up with other ideas/units for measuring.
  2. Divide students into groups, tell them that today they are going to find out how many M&M's they would need to measure the river, but since they do not have enough candies, nor are they near the river – they are going to have to do some problem solving. Give them some time to think about how they want to find the answer. Ask the groups to share ideas.
  3. Now that they have had some brainstorming, give the groups their M&M's, a ruler with centimeters on it, and the knowledge that the river is 4000 km long. Let them get to work – using only THEIR idea.
  4. Allow each group to share their findings, and their strategy for coming up with the findings.
  5. Now ask the groups to use another creative unit for measuring the river, like how many desks long it would be, or how many shoes, etc. Have them share their findings.

3. Closure/Discussion/Elaborate:

  1. Ask students what knowledge they needed to know before they could find their answer? (Like how long the river was, and how many cm are in a km)
  2. Discuss with students the need for standard units, especially if they chose to measure the river in shoes, and the need for different sized units. Are centimeters a good unit for measuring the length of a river? Would kilometers be a good unit to use for measuring the width of a hair? Ask students for input about why we have different units.
  3. Students could further the investigation by finding how many M&M's it would take to measure the length of the classroom, school, or anything else. They could also try to use the M&M's to explore volume or area.

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