This is our first audience-participation post.

I am soliciting your ideas for conversations in the comments.

I bought these at the Minnesota State Fair last summer.

When you open the package, here is what is inside.

*(Click for larger version of this image, which you are free to download.)*

I am curious how my readers would use these to talk with their children. Please feel free to post hypothetical as well as actual conversations in the comments.

There is no one right answer for this activity. See what fun you can have with them in your home, and report back!

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I think of multiplication when I see this: pointing out how many are in each row and then how many rows and figuring out that 6 x 3 is 18. Could even use the different colors for 18 x 4.

There’s so many possibilities!

I have to agree. The first thing I saw was multiplication. But, please! If there’s something else please let us know. *smiling*

Kids + candy = sharing. I’d show just one sheet and ask how the candy buttons may be divided evenly among 3 children. Wondering if kid will say person A gets all the blues, B gets all yellows, C gets all oranges, then each person also gets 6 reds. Or will the kid see the division along the 6 columns.

Sharing among 4 children: what’s fair? Is it possible to be “fair” if the 4 children want different flavors?

“Gourmet flavors!” :p

With my 3 year old I’d ask her to lay them out in certain patterns. I’d also lay them out in patterns and see if she could describe the patterns or find a spot where a pattern is broken. Examples:

1) Have her lay out red, yellow blue, red, yellow, blue, … in a line, and then maybe red, yellow, blue, yellow, red, yellow, blue, yellow…

2) I’d lay out red, yellow, blue, red yellow, blue, red, yellow, blue, red, blue, yellow, red, yellow, blue (or just switch two dots in a pattern she’d made while she’s not looking) and see if she can tell me which two dots were switched

Maybe now or when she’s a little older (I’m not good with estimating appropriate age on this sort of thing),

3) Have her decide how many times she could repeat a pattern before she’d run out of a candy of a certain color.

4) Have her try to layout red, yellow, blue, red, yellow, blue, … in a circle in such a way that the pattern continues forever and ever around the circle. Ask her if you can do this with any number of candies, or if it is only possible sometimes (looking for “equal numbers of each”, or, “there must be 3 times something candies”. Mix it up with different sorts of patterns, like red, yellow, blue, yellow, red, yellow, blue, yellow, … — can she come up with “same number of blue and red, and yellow equal to the total of blue and red combined”, or something like that.

5) Have her work with two-dimensional patterns and ask questions about them

6) Assign “values” to them (like poker chips) — like red is worth 1, yellow worth 3, orange worth 8, and blue is worth 10. Ask all kinds of questions, like, “is it possible to get 62 without using any reds?”

And of course, the most important way I “would use these to talk” is to talk to her with my mouth full!

Probability experiments are one possible avenue for discussion. Taking a known number of buttons and mixing them up in a bag: what are the chances of pulling out a RED button? A BLUE button? A PURPLE button? Probability at this level can be very concrete for early learners. As they get older, you can introduce representation with fractions, calculations, etc. I’m not sure how amenable these candies are to re-sorting in a bag, but there are many candies on the market to perform these kinds of experiments with.

How shall we eat them? What patterns can we make? Of course, we could eat all of one color, then all of another—but that’s boring. How would you eat them so that you get a balance of flavors and make a cool design of dots & spaces?

First thought: multiplication. Second thought after further review: tolerances! Look at how deformed some of the dots are. It would be a fun way to introduce the use of calipers for measuring small things. Set some definitions for deformed (over/under a certain radius, aspect ratio is not 1:1, etc). Also, you can talk about percentage, what percent of the buttons on this sheet are deformed. In manufacturing if products are not meeting specifications, they don’t get sold.

An old post, but anyone who finds this should also benefit from Vi Hart’s helpful contribution to the mathemusical ways of eating candy buttons: How to video.

She also references this XKCD cartoon.