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Pumpkins and Place Value

Carving a Pumpkin

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

Understanding Tens, Hundreds and Beyond

Pick the biggest pumpkin you can find. Cut off the top and smell the fresh pumpkin smell. Carving a Jack O'Lantern leads to a mathematical unit study of place value that incorporates all five senses.

Counting pumpkin seeds into groups of 10's, 100's etc. helps children understand our decimal system and prepares them in a concrete way to understand higher level math.

Scoop out those seeds, roast them if you like and count your way to a concrete understanding of place value.

Planting Pumpkin Seeds

Jack in the Beanstalk

Jack in the Beanstalk

Planting Pumpkin Seeds

As a child I helped my father drop seeds into the hills of garden dirt mixed with just enough compost to feed the growing pumpkin plants.

I loved the feel of the warming earth on my toes, the squishy damp earth, the wiggly worms and the earthy smell of spring.

We watered each seed and looked forward to the day that the pumpkins would be heavy, round and orange, ready to take home to eat and carve.

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? - Picture Books that Explain Place Value

Plant a pumpkin seed and watch it grow into a pumpkin. When the pumpkin is ripe, you can weigh the pumpkin and then cut it open to count the seeds.

When all of the pumpkins have been brought in we put them in order from smallest to largest and then estimate the number of seeds in each pumpkin.

Pumpkin Leaf - Pumpkin Blossom

Growing Pumpkins

Growing Pumpkins

The seeds become sprouts

I watched the seeds sprout, the vines twine around and spread out. The yellow blossoms opened up for the bees and then died off to reveal the small green baby pumpkins.

Photo Credit: Pumpkin Seedlings on Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Pumpkin Blossom on Flickr, Creative Commons

Green Pumpkins

Green Pumpkin

Green Pumpkin

Cooking Pumpkins

Later I helped my mom make pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread and pumpkin pudding. We even added pumpkin to spaghetti sauce.

Pumpkin Pie


My favorite day was the day my dad would bring the biggest pumpkin up onto the porch to carve into a Jack-o-lantern.

Choosing the Largest Pumpkin

Boy and Girl Carrying a Large Pumpkin

Boy and Girl Carrying a Large Pumpkin

Counting Pumpkin Seeds

But I never observed a pumpkin so well as the day I helped my students count the pumpkin seeds.

Wagon Full of Pumpkins - Pumpkins Full of Hundreds and Thousands of Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkins in the Blue Wagon

Pumpkins in the Blue Wagon

Scroll to Continue

Estimating the Number of Seeds in a Pumpkin

October is a great month for counting pumpkin seeds. Have each child bring in a pumpkin. You can estimate the weight, measure the circumference, count the ridges, and carve it with geometric shapes. There are 10's if not hundreds of ways to use math to describe a pumpkin.

Counting the seeds is one of my favorite ways to explore place value. During the week before we will be counting seeds I ask parents to send in a pumpkin. I introduce the Pumpkin Theme by reading From Seed to Pumpkin in order to learn about the life cycle of the pumpkin.

Estimating the number of seeds in the pumpkin. - Pumpkin Seeds

Scooping out Pumpkin Seeds

Scooping out Pumpkin Seeds

Estimate the Number of Seeds in a Pumpkin

Pick a pumpkin for carving and counting seeds.

1. Each child writes an estimate for the number of seeds they think are in the pumpkin.

2. Attach estimates above the number line.

To better understand estimation it is important to repeat the process several times so carving, cutting and counting a pumpkin should be done in groups of 3 or 4 children leaving enough pumpkins for several days.

Cut the Top off the Pumpkin - Carving the Pumpkin

Carve the Pumpkin

Carve the Pumpkin

Carve Your Pumpkin

Photo Credit: Carve the Pumpkin on Flickr, Creative Commons.

Photo Credit: Smell the Pumpkin on Flickr, Creative Commons.

1. Listen to the squeaky sound as the top is cut off. Cutting into a pumpkin is difficult and the knife is wedged in tightly, causing vibrations which cause the sound you hear.

2. Cut off the top and look inside. Notice how each fiber leads to a seed.

3. Can you smell the pumpkin? Does it smell the same as pumpkin pie?

4. Does the outside of the pumpkin feel dry or moist? How does the inside feel? Do you see beads of moisture forming where you cut off the top?

Pumpkin Carving Time

Taking off the Pumpkin Lid

Taking off the Pumpkin Lid

Cut off the Top of the Pumpkin

Use all Five Senses

5. Use your fingers to pull out all the seeds; separating them from the fibers or strings as you go. Spread the seeds out on a tray and dry them or roast them in a warm oven.

6. Use a large spoon to scrape our the strings. It is safe to taste the strings. Do they taste the way you would expect? Do they taste like pumpkin pie?

7. Do you think your estimate was lower or higher than the number you recorded? Write down your new estimate.

Scoop Out the Pumpkin Seeds - Spread Out the Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

Scoop out the Seeds

Photo Credit: Pumpkin Seeds on Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Pumpkin Seeds on Flickr, Creative Commons.

Using a spoon or fingers scoop out all of the seeds and spread them out on a newspaper or paper towels to dry.

Place Value Grid

Place Value Worksheet

Place Value Worksheet

Writing the Numbers on the Place Value Worksheet

Now count the number of seeds that did not make a complete set of 10 and write that number in the ones column.

Count the number of left over Gatorade caps and write that digit in the tens column.

Then count the number of small pumpkins with seeds and write that digit in the hundreds column.

Photo Credit: Chart Created by Evelyn Saenz

Finally count the number of large pumpkins, if any, and write that number in the thousands column.

Now you know how many seeds were in the pumpkin.

Compare the exact number with your estimates.

Investigating Place Value - Collecting Data and Using a Place Value Mat

place value math mat

place value math mat

Pumpkin Containers

1. Put one seed at a time on the plastic orange plate.

2. Ten pumpkin seeds go in a small plastic pumpkin.

3. Ten small plastic pumpkins go in the large plastic pumpkin.

Count the Pumpkins in the pumpkin Patch

Draw pumpkin leaves on green paper and draw a line down the middle. Write tens on the top of the left hand side and ones on the top of the right hand side. Laminate the Pumpkin Patch mat.

Make a stack of pumpkin shaped cardstock cutouts. Write two digit numbers on the pumpkins. On the back draw the pumpkins for self checking.

Pumpkin Math Mats

Pumpkin Place Mats

Pumpkin Place Mats

Pumpkin Math Center

Each child or pair of children needs a pumpkin Patch Mat, some Pumpkin Cards, 9 Pumpkin Erasers and 9 pumpkin seeds. Erasers are worth 10 seeds.

Children show the number of pumpkins growing in the field using Erasers and Seeds.

Pumpkin Seed Math Books

Counting Pumpkin Seeds

Counting Pumpkin Seeds

Counting pumpkin seeds,

Oh what fun!

How many seed inside this big one?

Find all the members of the nine family using pumpkin seeds as math manipulatives.

Place Value Lessons - Help you to teach Place Value

These are the very best books I have found for teaching Place Value using hands-on methods. They have hundreds of ideas for making math come alive for the children.

The idea for counting pumpkin seeds, from the Mathematics Their Way program, was one of the first hands-on lessons I taught and it is still one of my favorites. I was substituting in a classroom in central Vermont where small classes and cooperation allowed the first and second grade teachers to collaborate on innovative ideas. The teacher brought a large pumpkin into the classroom and the math class began. We estimated the circumference and weight, graphed the estimations and then guessed the number of pumpkin seeds that the pumpkin would contain.

Finally we were allowed to cut off the top and begin counting. We counted ten pumpkin seeds by placing one seed at a time on a laminated sheet of paper or math mat with nine small circles, one for each pumpkin seed. When each of the circles was filled and the next one had no place to go, we slid all of them off into a paper cup. Nine paper cups were provided with a small plastic pumpkin off to the left and ten cups full of pumpkin seeds were dumped into it.

We discussed place value and soon learned the number of pumpkin seeds found in the pumpkin. The children were told that they would be carving and counting pumpkins all week and that they would discover that their estimations would become more and more accurate.

Growing Pumpkins - Life Cycle of the Pumpkin

How did you come to understand Place Value?

Maybe you still don't understand it. For me it wasn't until I was doing my Student Teaching and I worked with a wonderful teacher who was beginning to use the Math Their Way method of teaching.

As I helped the children make groups of ten objects and group those ten objects to make hundreds it all started to make sense. The numbers were no longer just numbers on paper. They now had meaning.

This need to understand the significance of each digit becomes important as children begin to learn to multiply and divide large numbers.

How did you learn Place Value?

Counting Pumpkin Seeds to 10

The video below gives some ideas for Pumpkin Seed center activities or activities for children who are not quite ready for counting numbers beyond 10.

Number Sequence Game

Large pumpkin for holding two digit number cards.

Program pumpkin cutouts with numbers between 0 and 99.

1. Pass the pumpkin while playing music.

2. When the music stops the child holding the pumpkin takes out a pumpkin card, reads the number and shows it's value by setting out the correct number of small plastic pumpkins (tens) and seeds (ones).

Variation: Once the group understands how to play this game it can be played in small groups of 3 or 4 at the same time.

Note:Make sure that the groups are of mixed abilities and that everyone gets a chance to show the number values.

Ten Little Pumpkins

Marching Pumpkins

Marching Pumpkins

Ten Little Pumpkins

Here is a song to help little pumpkin counters count the ten seeds that go into the small plastic pumpkins.

Ten Little Pumpkins

(tune of Ten Little Indians)

One little, two little, three little pumpkins.

Four little, five little, six little pumpkins.

Seven little, eight little, nine little pumpkins.

Ten little pumpkins growing in a patch.

Ten little, nine little, eight little pumpkins.

Seven little, six little, five little pumpkins,

Four little, three little, two little pumpkins.

One little pumpkin growing in a patch.

If you're going to try making ten of these cute little Lego Pumpkins you are going to have to collect lots of orange Legos. Here are the directions and quantities to make one:

How many orange Lego bricks would it take to make ten pumpkins?

Lego Pumpkin

Pumpkin Made out of Legos

Pumpkin Made out of Legos

How to make a Lego Pumpkin

If you're going to try making ten of these cute little Lego Pumpkins you are going to have to collect lots of orange Legos. Here are the directions and quantities to make a 3-D Lego Pumpkin.:

How many orange Lego bricks would it take to make ten pumpkins?

More Pumpkin Math Activities

Pumpkin Geometry

The face of a Jack-o-lantern is usually made of geometric shapes. Use black paper to represent the shadows inside a Jack-o-lantern.

  • Make lots of triangles
  • Cut out some circles
  • Make squares, rectangles and ovals
  • Give each child a piece of orange paper for them to cut into a large pumpkin shape.
  • Pass out the glue sticks

Children can use the geometric shapes to make their own Jack-o-lantern faces.

  • Post these faces on the bulletin board and skip count to see how many eyes, noses, etc that are shown on the bulletin board.
  • Make tally marks to count the teeth.

How could you show the total numbers using place value?

Pumpkin Mosaic - Pumpkin Art

Pumpkin Mosaic

Pumpkin Mosaic

Pumpkin Mosaics

Seeds of many kinds make beautiful mosaics. Here is one made using pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin Crafts

Pumpkin Calendar Pattern

Make a pattern with pumpkins, leaves and apples for your calendar.

Each day you slip in the next number and guess the pattern as each day's picture is revealed.

Math is all about recognizing patterns. With practice in creating and recognizing patterns children begin to develop number sense.

Pumpkin Number Line

Make a number line adding a number each day. Write the numbers 1-9 on each of the and the number 10 on the large pumpkin. Continue on for the rest of the month or until you get to as high a number as your children are learning to count to.

Number lines help children visualize the meaning of Place Value.

Pumpkin Tote Bag - Pumpkin Story Bag

Pumpkin Literacy Bag

Pumpkin Literacy Bag

  • Pumpkin Concentration
    Color, label and laminate the pumpkin cards. They could be labeled with Word Wall Words, Pumpkin Theme words, or words used for Place Value such as tens, ones or hundreds.
  • Pumpkin Card Games
    Match the letters or numbers on these pumpkin cards

Place Value and Pumpkins

Measure the Circumference of your Pumpkin

Measure the Circumference of your Pumpkin

Pumpkin Math

There are many ways in which we can use our pumpkins to learn about math. You might want to estimate each of the measurements before actually measuring them. They arrange the pumpkins according to the measurements.

  • Count the ridges
  • Weigh the pumpkin
  • Measure the height
  • Measure the circumference
  • Measure the diameter and radius of a cut pumpkin
  • Weigh the pulp and seeds
  • Weigh the pulp without the seeds
  • Weigh the seeds before drying.
  • Weigh the seeds after drying
  • Count the seeds
  • Form the seeds into squares and rectangles to demonstrate multiplication
  • Divide the seeds into equal groups
  • Eat the seeds while playing a subtraction game.

Predicting Pumpkin Worksheets

Place Value beyond the Pumpkins

More Pumpkin Games

After all the pumpkins have been gathered and the seeds have been counted, what can you do to continue learning Place Value concepts?

From daily calendar count to I Have, Who Has card games the learning fun never ends.

Pumpkin Themed Math Games

  • Activities : Play Placemat Place Value
    Ordinary drinking straws are fun for drinking juice and even for spitballs when you're not looking, but also fabulous for learning first grade math.
  • | Place Value Activities
    Place Value Practice: School Day Count Routine Students need many different activities to develop a conceptual understanding of our base-ten number system.

More Pumpkin Ideas

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin Activities

  • Welcome to the Pumpkin Patch
    Weigh a pumpkin. After scooping out the seeds and pulp, weigh the pumpkin again and compare the two weights.
  • Counting Pumpkins by 10's Book
    Pictures of tens of pumpkins with very simple text. Ebook or pdf format.
  • Using Pumpkin Seeds as Math Manipulatives
    Background: Pilgrims and other early American settlers made the first pumpkin pies by burying pumpkin in the ashes of their fires. After a pumpkin had cooked, they would cut off the top, scrape out the pulp and add honey or maple syrup. The pulp wa

More Ideas for Teaching Place Value

Pumpkin Lapbook

Pumpkin Lapbook

Lilliput Station creates wonderful Lapbooks for nearly any imaginable unit study.

Click on the Lilliput's Lapbook link below to go to the free downloadable file.

Pumpkin and Place Value Lapbooks

Writing about Place Value and Pumpkins

Using Place Value to Count Pumpkins

Using Place Value to Count Pumpkins

Have you ever counted all the seeds in a pumpkin? How many seeds do you think you will find?

Pumpkins and Place Value Talk - Did you gain a better understanding of Place Value and the role of manipulatives?

UKMarkWilliam on October 31, 2012:

Wonderful theme

UKMarkWilliam on October 31, 2012:


anonymous on September 04, 2012:

Wonderful as always:) Perfect ideas for teaching place value.

Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on August 27, 2012:

I love your lenses. They are fantastic.

KayeSI on August 27, 2012:

What fun ideas for grandparents and grandchildren during the lovely fall harvest season - what we consider to be Autumn Bliss :)

Evelyn Saenz (author) from Royalton on August 25, 2012:

@AlleyCatLane: Thank you so much, AlleyCatLane:)

AlleyCatLane on August 25, 2012:

You are a fantastic teacher. All your lenses are bless worthy. Blessed!

poutine on October 19, 2011:

I never did count seeds in a pumpkin. I wish you had been my teacher when I was a child.

Chazz from New York on October 02, 2011:

Fantastic lessons here. Blessed on the Squidangel Halloween quest.

NaturalVamp on September 30, 2011:

I surely enjoyed the story at the beginning of your lens dahling as it reminded me of my father and he also growing pumpkins in the backyard.

Tracy Gibb on September 08, 2011:

Evelyn, I wish I had you as a resource when I was a preschool teacher. These ideas are so simple yet so creative. I love all of your lenses.

reasonablerobby on May 29, 2011:

brilliant to use maths to explain the world about us...wish you'd taught me math(s) !

akumar46 lm on May 19, 2011:

Wow ! Pumpkins used for counting place value....Great.....

thesuccess2 on September 21, 2010:

Just love Pumpkins

Brook_Drew on August 11, 2010:

Hello, I would like to show you great site with many free online math games for kids.

For Place Value Games: 2nd grade place value games

for the main site: math games

VarietyWriter2 on April 14, 2010:

Great lens! Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

anonymous on April 12, 2010:

Yet another fabulous and imaginitive way to teach our children maths, Evelyn!

Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on April 12, 2010:

Goodness! I never knew there were so many things to do with a pumpkin!

JennySui on November 10, 2009:

You always amaze me with ur great ideas. I always wonder how you people manage to make such a big and creative lens.

hlkljgk from Western Mass on October 27, 2009:

you come up with such creative and fun learning ideas

debraanne on October 27, 2009:

Great way to integrate lessons with the real world.

Teddi14 LM on October 20, 2009:

You always have such great & helpful lenses. I am going to have to come back again and again!

JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on October 18, 2009:

This is adorable! Thank you again for incredible hands-on ideas.

Pamela :)

Evelyn Saenz (author) from Royalton on October 18, 2009:

[in reply to KimGiancaterino] Thank you SquidAngel.

KimGiancaterino on October 16, 2009:

Happy Halloween, Evelyn. You've been Boo-lessed by a Squid Angel.

Evelyn Saenz (author) from Royalton on October 16, 2009:

[in reply to Joan4] Thank you SquidAngel.

Joan4 on October 16, 2009:

You always amaze me with your wonderful ideas, Evelyn! This is so extensive and such super illustrations! Blessed.

LoKackl on October 06, 2009:

Wow! this is amazing! Some potential games for Halloween parties for sure. you are amazing Evelyn. Dedication and expertise galore! Thanks for the suggestion.

julieannbrady on October 05, 2009:

[in reply to JaguarJulie]Thanks Evelyn for encouraging me to pay this lens another visit! I'm wondering if the average pumpkins have the same, less, or MORE pumpkin seeds as compared to last year? Do you think they change?

anonymous on September 01, 2009:

Very clever theme for teaching!

Evelyn Saenz (author) from Royalton on August 07, 2009:

[in reply to Frank2009] It can be fun to make mosaics from Pumpkin Seeds, beans and dried corn.

Estimate the number needed, use place value to help you count and then create a work of art.

Frank Edens on July 23, 2009:

It did me think about my other lens, special for all those Mosaic lovers out there :)

julieannbrady on May 16, 2009:

Had never thought of pumpkins and 'place value' but thanks to you Evelyn and all your wonderful creativity, you have made me have a new understanding for 'place value.' And, I thank you for that! ;)

Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN, USA on March 10, 2009:

Welcome to the Learning and Teaching Math Group!

EpicFarms on November 21, 2008:

What a wonderful lens! Great ideas with the pumpkin seeds - 5* and a smile :o)


MichelleH on November 08, 2008:

This is an excellent lens! 5 stars to you!!

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on November 07, 2008:

I've never counted the seeds in a pumpkin. Well, maybe I did with my kids. Wish I had it all to do over with your excellent resources!

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on November 05, 2008:

What a beautiful, helpful lens. I absolutely love those "turkeys" you have in the picture near the top, Five stars.

Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on November 05, 2008:

I'm going to have to come back again and again to see ALL your lenses. Your students are so very fortunate to have you as a teacher! 5 *s

go206th on November 04, 2008:

Another Wonderful Lens. Your lenses are always great. Thank you for joining my group, Homemade Halloween. Remember to visit the group site and support you fellow group memebers and vote for your favorite lenses. 5*

Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN, USA on October 25, 2008:

Wonderful ideas and images here!

You are hereby Blessed by a Squid Angel.

The Homeopath on October 23, 2008:

What a fun idea for this time of year! I've always used dried beans (LOL, I'm dull) for helping my kids learn math. We even made fun holders for them to keep their "counting beans" on their desks!

tandemonimom lm on October 22, 2008:

What a great lens, so full of ideas and wonderful visuals! Thanks for all the hard work, and thanks for your kind comments on my LOTD!

Robin S from USA on October 19, 2008:

Amazing work on this great lens! Lensrolling this to my Pumpkin Carving 101 lens!

anonymous on October 11, 2008:

Thank you so much for joining my group Welcome Parents - The Parent Place. I am excited to have such a talented lensmaster in the group. Keep up the GREAT work! :)

ronpass lm on October 11, 2008:

What a superb lens, Evelyn. From one Giant Squid to another, congrats. I love the way you present your material - very attractive and inspiring.

Mortira on October 11, 2008:

Fantastic way to save those jack-o-lantern seeds, and teach something valuable at the same time! Welcome to Family Time!

Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on October 11, 2008:

Evelyn, as usual this is a beautiful lens with great ideas and lots of wonderful pictures. I happen to be one of those people that looks forward to carving a pumpkin just for the pumpkin seeds. Great job!

funwithtrains lm on October 08, 2008:

Wow, nice lens!

Yvonne L B from Covington, LA on October 08, 2008:

Oops, our posts must have crossed in cyberspace. I have also created a new featured lenses modules and added your Pumpkin Unit to mine.

Yvonne L B from Covington, LA on October 08, 2008:

Great teaching lens for the wee punkins. I lensrolled it to Pumpkin Picking Time. Thanks for visiting.

caketech on September 26, 2008:

Love this lens! This will be a great idea to use in our homeschool this year! Thanks for a great lens! 5*s and favorited!

go206th on September 24, 2008:

This is a great idea. Getting a childs attention is the hardest part. I will be counting seeds with my grandson this year. Thanks for joining my group, "Halloween Craft Ideas". 5*

groovyoldlady on September 19, 2008:

Superior (as ususal!)

Mortira on September 11, 2008:

Teaching math in a way that kids can understand is so important - even at the highschool level. Thanks for the great lens! *****

Mortira on September 11, 2008:

Teaching math in a way that kids can understand is so important - even at the highschool level. Thanks for the great lens! *****

Dianne Loomos on September 07, 2008:

In our homeschool we used cuisinaire rods which were great. Another beautiful lens!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 06, 2008:

I sure wished they had taught using manipulatives when I was in school. Maybe I would have a better handle on Math. Great lens. 5*

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