Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

January 14, 2015

There’s something wonderful about the aroma of fresh popcorn in the house. It’s like having your own movie theater concession stand at the ready. We love to munch on popcorn during a family game night or while watching a movie together. However, once everyone is comfy and cozy on the couch, nobody wants to get up to refill popcorn containers. This inspired us to construct our own perfect popcorn containers using ordinary sheets of paper. It’s a snack with a sprinkling of popcorn math.

Pop Up the Volume

Let’s use popcorn to help kids see differences in volume. We like to go old-school and make it on the stovetop. We use popcorn kernels, olive oil, and a heavy pot (we own a special one just for making popcorn). If you are not familiar with popping the corn on the stove top this is a great set of directions.

Have your kids measure half a cup of popcorn kernels to begin. Predict how many half cups of popped kernels you will have in the end. Write down the estimates and pop that corn.

When it’s all popped, transfer it into a large bowl and have another empty container next to it.  Measure half cups of popcorn into the empty bowl and keep track as you go along. While your kids may know that popped popcorn takes up more space than kernels, seeing the volume of popcorn in front of them is an eye-opening experience. How does the volume of popped corn compare to their predictions?

Popcorn Container Challenge

Begin with two cylinder shapes. Roll one sheet of paper the long way and tape it. Then, roll another sheet of paper the short way and tape it. See the photo below for reference. Can you guess which will hold the most popcorn? Fill them up and see which is the winner. You might be surprised with the answer!

Now get creative and try additional shapes of containers to see which will hold the most popcorn. Will a cone, rectangular tray, or something abstract work best? Some shapes, like cones, may seem practical because they are easy to hold, but their contents tend to spill out when they’re put down. Which popcorn container provides the best balance in terms of volume and ease of use?

For additional popcorn related daily math problems, check out A Kernel of Truth and Why Corn is Cool.

Images courtesy of Beth Levine