Beacon Lesson Plan Library
Metric M & M Fun
Bay District Schools
This is a fun activity that explores the relative sizes of common metric prefixes as they compare to the base unit.
The student compares units of measurement within a system (metric or customary).
-Seventy 3x5 or 4x6 index cards
-Permanent marker (any color)
-Two one-pound bags of M&M candies (classes of over 30 students may need three bags)
-Seven pieces of 8x10 construction paper (different colors)
-Fifty baggies that will zip closed
-Tape or tacks for posting construction paper in front of the room
-A small scoop or tablespoon (holds about 10 M&Ms)
1. Use the permanent marker to write one metric prefix on each of the construction paper sheets (kilo-, hecto-, deka-, deci-, centi-, milli-, base unit). See associated file for example.
2. Use the permanent marker to prepare the index cards by writing each of the following prefixes on 10 cards: kilo-, hecto-, deka-, deci-, centi-, milli-; also write base unit on 10 cards.
3. Smash five or six of the M&Ms in order to prepare the milli-, centi-, and deci- baggies. When smashing the M&Ms, it should be obvious that a milli- is extremely small, a centi- is larger than a milli-, and a deci- is larger than a centi-, yet smaller than the base unit.
Prepare the baggies of M&Ms in the following manner:
-ten bags contain a microscopic piece of an M&M to represent one-thousandth of an M&M (a milli-portion),
-ten bags contain a very small piece of an M&M (a centi-portion)
-ten bags contain a small piece representative of one-tenth (a deci-portion)
-ten bags contain one M&M (the base unit)
-ten bags contain 10 M&Ms (a deka portion).
4. Label each of the bags with the metric prefix (or base unit) that represents what is in the bag by writing on them with the permanent marker.
5. Put all the bags in a place that you will call the M&M Station. This is where you stand and students come to pickup their baggies when their prefixes are called.
6. Right before students enter the room, empty all the remaining M&Ms from the store-bought, one-pound bags into the large bowl. Place the scoop or tablespoon in the bowl.
1. Having previously introduced the metric system prefixes and their values relative to the base unit, mount the seven pieces of construction paper at the front of the room where students can easily see them.
2. Go to the front of the class holding a large bowl FULL of M&M candies and tell the class they will be sharing in some M&M Metric Fun to compare units within the metric system. Students do not touch or eat the M&Ms until the very end of this lesson.
3. Pass out the prefix cards at random, one per student.
4. Tell the students that they will be receiving an M&M that represents the size of their prefix card as it compares to the base unit. At this point, those students who don’t grasp the concept of one-tenth, one-hundredth, or one-thousandth may get excited to have a deci-, centi- or a milli- card, thinking they’ll be getting ten, one hundred, or one thousand M&Ms. Don’t correct them at this point.
5. Instruct students that they are NOT to open the baggies they receive.
6. Direct all the students with a base unit card to come to the M&M Station; the remaining students sit quietly, waiting to be called. At the M&M Station, give students a baggie labeled “base unit” (one M&M) and tell them to return to their seats and wait patiently.
7. Call all the students with a deci- card to come to the M&M Station to collect their baggie; give each student the appropriate baggie.
8. Call the students with a centi- card to the M&M Station and give each the appropriate baggie.
9. Call the students with a milli- card to the M&M Station and give each the appropriate baggie.
10. Have one student with a milli-, centi-, deci- and base unit baggy stand beside the construction paper sheet that represents the contents of their baggies.
Ask, “Since one M&M represents the base unit, how many centi- baggies would it take to make a base unit? (100) How many deci- baggies would it take to make a base unit? (10) How many milli- baggies would it take to make a base unit? (1,000)” Have those students be seated.
11. Tell students to look at the metric prefixes at the front of the room, then give the following directive: “In your minds, predict how many M&Ms will be in the deka- bags. After you’ve thought about it, without speaking, raise your hands and hold up the number you believe will be in each bag.” Students should all hold up 10 fingers. Acknowledge that you see their hands and tell them we’re going to check to see if they’re right.
12. Call the students with a deka- card to come to the M&M Station; give each student the appropriate bag and tell them to return to their seats.
13. Ask the students, “How many of you knew there would be 10 M&Ms in each bag?”
14. Ask students holding a hecto- card to come to the M&M Station.
15. Ask students holding a deka- bag of M&Ms to come to the M&M Station.
16. Ask the class, “How many deka- bags will these students have to give to the hecto- people in order for each of them to have a hecto- number of M&Ms?” The class should answer ten, since it takes 10 tens to equal 100.
17. Instruct students to give their deka- bags to one of the hecto- students, with the teacher making up the difference with the deka- bags remaining at the M&M Station. One student will end up with ten bags of ten M&Ms (a total of 100).
18. Ask the student with the ten deka- bags to step forward, then ask the class, “How many deka- bags is this student holding?” The class should respond ten.
19. Ask the class, “How many base units is this student holding?” The class should respond one hundred.
20. Apologize to the students who were unfortunate enough to receive a milli-, centi- and deci- bag and invite them to get a scoop of M&Ms from the bowl at the M&M Station.
21. Invite the remaining students to also have a scoop of M&Ms from the bowl at the M&M Station!
22. Collect the baggies used in the activity.
Students are formatively assessed on comparing units of measurements within the metric system by answering questions during the activity and on the Metric M&Ms worksheet. (See Associated File) An answer sheet is provided.