Thanksgiving Meal Planning Math


Planning Thanksgiving dinner on a budget is something many families do every year but children often are not part of that process. It’s a fun activity, though, and one that builds budgeting skills, math skills, and teamwork. Try it with your students by planning a Thanksgiving dinner in groups together using flyers from local grocery stores.

Thanksgiving Dinner Budget Activity

  1. Divide your class into groups and distribute one worksheet to each group as well as flyers from various grocery stores in the area.
  2. Instruct teams that their goal is to plan a Thanksgiving dinner for their group using the flyers provided. Each group must select at least one meat, one vegetable, one side dish, one dessert, and one beverage. Explain that after those basic requirements, teams can add on extra items as their budget allows. They can choose whatever they want within the category, such as corn, peas, or carrots as a side dish.
  3. Groups are not require to budget for condiments, plates or silverware, cooking utensils, etc.
  4. Part of the goal is teamwork so groups must decide together what to have for dinner within their group.
  5. All the purchases must be within the budget. If you want to make it more difficult, you can have students plan for applicable sales tax in your area.
  6. Students must fill out the worksheet to get credit for the activity.

The worksheet is available here.

More Thanksgiving dinner activities:

The Voyage of the Mayflower Lesson Plan


Learning about the Pilgrims and their journey to America is important to understanding the founding of our country and the history of the United States. The Pilgrims’ voyage on the Mayflower was full of hardships. Today, a replica named the Mayflower II sits in Plymouth Bay, where the Pilgrims eventually landed and settled in Plimoth. Plimoth Plantation is also a great field trip if you’re in the New England area — it’s a great opportunity teach your students first hand what living as a Pilgrim was like.

One way to understand the Pilgrims and the trials they went through to get to America is to experience a little bit of those trials through reenactment.

The Mayflower Voyage Reenactment Activity

To experience the Mayflower as best we can, we can take students on an imaginary journey from England to Plimoth. Young children can reenact the voyage together as Pilgrims and older students can read first hand accounts and documents from the events of the voyage to get in-depth knowledge of the history of the Mayflower.

Life Before the Voyage and Preparations

First, discuss with your students what the Pilgrim’s lives were like living in England. The Pilgrims were originally called Separatists because they were dissatisfied with the Anglican Church but because the king, King James I, was the head of the church, it was treason not to practice Anglicanism. The Pilgrims were prosecuted for their religious beliefs and fled to Holland where they could practice freely.

Explain to students that in England, they are not welcome because of what they believe. Have younger students pretend that others are picking on them for their beliefs. Older students can read a passage from the journal of William Bradford about the Separatists and their beliefs. 

While in Holland, the Pilgrims had to work hard at menial jobs and life was difficult. They decided that settling in the New World was the only way they could live the way they wanted, free from prosecution. But Jamestown, the only English colony at the time, was full of Anglicans and they feared they would experience the same troubles as in England. So they decided to settle and start their own colony. Since England owned America, they had to return to England to get permission to go to America. They signed a land patent with the Virginia Company in London that granted them an area of land in Virginia on which to settle. They chartered the Mayflower to take them and joined up with more Separatists in England.

For younger students, you can print out a copy of a land patent and give it to your group of Pilgrims. Older students can read a passage from the journal of William Bradford about the decision to go to America.

The next step is to prepare for the voyage. The Pilgrims couldn’t take everything they needed and had to pick and choose what to take. While the Mayflower was one of the largest ships at the time, it is tiny by today’s standards. They prepared stores of food, chose which furniture to take, and packed the ship for the voyage.

Young students can best learn about the choices the Pilgrims had to make by having to choose between items. Print out different items, like clothing, tools, furniture, food, and other items. Ask students to pack a box together and decide what to take with them. Older students can read through documents of provisions and recommendations from settlers on what to bring with them.

The Voyage to Plimoth

The Mayflower itself was a small ship and the Pilgrims spent 66 days traveling from England to Plimoth, although that wasn’t their original intended destination. They lived in between decks in a small, cramped space with no fresh air and little to do and terrible food to eat. Soon after they left, a storm hit the Mayflower and blew her off course.

Build a “Mayflower” with your younger students but outlining a ship on the floor in tape just big enough for all the students to sit in together. Explain to them what life was like in the ship and ask them to sway back and forth. Ask them to pretend they’re smelly, that there’s little air to breathe, and that the food is bad to eat and has bugs in it. When the storm comes, ask students to pretend they are seasick, ask one to fall overboard and the others to save the student, and have students imagine the ship is being tossed in the angry ocean. Older students can use this interactive timeline.

After the storm, the Mayflower continued to America but first spotted land in Newfoundland, far north of where they intended to settle. They stopped for provisions and then attempted to navigate to the area they had signed the patent for but the waters around New England were treacherous so they made land on Cape Cod. After giving up and deciding to settle in the area, they went to the area now known as Plimoth.

Take younger students on the journey by using a map to explain how far the Pilgrims were off course and the path they took down the coast to Plimoth (named Plymouth today on maps). Asks students to pretend to get provisions in Newfoundland but decide not to stay there. Have one student spot land and ask all the students to exit the Mayflower and return to their seats. Older students can read first hand accounts of the last legs of the voyage and read the Mayflower Compact.


After taking the journey with the Pilgrims, ask your students to reflect on what the journey was like and how it formed our ideas of America today. Highlight that later when the United States was founded, religious freedom and tolerance were important parts of our decisions on how to govern our country, which we still use today. You can also connect this lesson to other lessons about bullying and tolerance in your classroom.

Ask students to write a journal entry about what they learned from experiencing the voyage of the Mayflower and what it was like to be a Pilgrim. Older students can write analysis of primary sources and reflect on how the Pilgrim’s voyage affected our country’s history.




  • On the Mayflower: Voyage of the Ship’s Apprentice & a Passenger Girl by Kate Waters
  • If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern
  • Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage by Plimoth Plantation
  • American Documents: The Mayflower Compact by Judith Lloyd Yero
  • Across the Wide Dark Sea: The Mayflower Journey by Jean Van Leeuwen
  • Of Plimoth Plantation by William Bradford

Mystery at the Olympics: Rush for the Gold

Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics by John Feinstein is a young adult novel set at the London Olympics and the run-up to them. The main character, Susan Carol Anderson, is a competitive swimmer. She learns firsthand, as she prepares for the competition, that it’s easy for a competitor to become a commodity. Her friend Stevie is reporting on the Olympics, and his experience as a writer and a journalist is explored along with the experiences of the athletes.

Read the book aloud or assign chapters to students for independent reading. Then follow up with cross-curricular activities:

Discussion Questions

  • Susan Carol loves to swim and has enjoyed swimming competitively for her high school. As an Olympic athlete, she suddenly has a lot more options, including the potential to earn a lot of money. How might this affect her life? Quote from Chapter 3: “Just the thought of it staggered Susan Carol. She couldn’t begin to think of how to spend that money… All the things she’d imagined for her life were suddenly chaning — it was hard to keep up.”
  • As she becomes more well known, there are a lot suggestions that Susan Carol is popular because of her looks, not her swimming ability. How does she feel about this? Is this a problem? Issues of both sexuality and sexism come up in the book. In Chapter 9, Stevie becomes angry about “how they planned to market Susan Carol as America’s newest sweetheart/sex symbol.” Does this kind of marketing belittle an athlete?
  • While her father originally stands firm on these issues (quote from chapter 3: “‘You and I had an agreement,J.P.,’ he said firmly. “We promote her as an athlete.’”) he later gives in, even agreeing to fire the coach Susan Carol has worked with all her life, over her objections. Should parents make these decisions, or should young people make them? Do good people get swayed by money and pressure to do things they know are wrong?
  • In Chapters 16 and 17, there is a lot of discussion of the rules of the Olympic Village, where athletes stay, and the kind of access other people get to the athletes. Should athletes be focused on the competition to the exclusion of everything else, or should they be available for reporters — or able to spend time having fun? Are the rules protecting the athletes or limiting them?
  • At the end of the book, after several chapters of mounting feelings that something might be wrong, it becomes clear that rules are being broken. Did the students see it coming? Can they identify the trail of clues leading to the outcome?


This book is full of numbers, from times and speed to the number of competitors and their chances of winning. Divide into groups and give each group a chapter of the book to work with. Have students make word problems using the data in the book, and challenge other teams to find the answers. Give the winning team Olympic-style medals.

Social Studies

Michael Phelps is a character in the book. In real life, Phelps has received the largest number of Olympic medals any athlete has ever received. Have students research Phelps and prepare a display board, PowerPoint, or class book about this exceptional athlete.

Find more ideas in our Olympics Classroom Theme.

Learning About Trucks


trucks lesson plans

From preschoolers who love to play with toy trucks to high school students discovering all the jobs involved in logistics and freight transport, everyone can learn something from a good less on trucks. Scroll down to find lessons at different grade levels.

Preschool and Kindergarten

Read books about trucks:

Listen to a song about trucks and sing along!

Invite students to bring a toy truck from home to show, or collect toy trucks at garage sales or dime stores. Have students create art with their toy trucks:

  • Drive the trucks through shallow trays of paint and then across paper, creating tracks of paint.
  • Have each student roll or pat out a thin slab of Model Magic and run trucks across it to create texture. Model Magic can be painted or colored with markers as well.
  • Alternatively, make trucks. Milk carton dump trucks are a lot of fun, or just glue simple shapes onto paper — rectangles plus circles for wheels.


Kids come to school with some old-fashioned ideas about trucks! Share this information with your students:

Trucks pick up raw materials, such as rice from a farm or milk from a dairy. They may also pick up things like containers of computer parts arriving by ship — not exactly raw materials, but the needed parts for manufacturing. Different kinds of trucks pick up different things:

A tanker truck carries liquids like gasoline or milk. It’s very important to keep these trucks clean and safe. Tanker trucks have round bodies.

A flatbed truck can carry big things, like containers used to transport things by ship. They have big flat surfaces. It’s important to make sure loads on flatbeds are very secure so they won’t fall off the truck.

A van is the rectangular part of the truck. A truck may have a cab (shown on the flatbed) that attaches to a van, or it may be all in one piece, in which case it’s called a straight truck. Vans are used to carry dry goods, like boxes of cereal, books, or toys.

A truck for bulk hauling, such as carrying rice or other grains, might have a walking floor, as you can see in the video below. This automatic floor can make it easier to load and unload bulk items, or very heavy things that would be hard for people to carry.

Trucks bring raw materials to a factory to be made into new products, or to a warehouse where they’re put into packages. A warehouse is a big building where things are stored, and a manufacturer, factory, or store might have its own warehouse. Often a warehouse is part of what’s called a “fulfillment house,” where raw materials or new products are packaged and sent on to customers or to stores.

People in fulfillment houses use computers to keep track of all the things they need to store, package, and send. Students have probably seen bar codes and scanners in stores. These are the tools warehouse and fulfillment house workers use to make sure all the items in the warehouse get to the right place.

Once the products are all packaged, they’re packed into more trucks — usually vans — to go to stores. The workers use computers to make sure everything goes into the right trucks and to the right stores.

Truck drivers might make short hauls, like driving products from the warehouse to a store in a nearby city, or they might make long hauls across several states. Long haul drivers have beds in the cabs of their trucks, and they take showers and eat at special places called truck stops, where they can rest and get diesel fuel for their trucks. Most truck drivers have computers in their cabs, too, which they can use for communication and entertainment.

When the trucks arrive at the store, workers unpack the truck and put the products onto the shelves. They may use the barcodes on the packages, and they may also put new labels onto the packages. Sometimes a small store will use a different computer system, so the barcodes put on the boxes in the warehouse or on the products by the manufacturers don’t work with their computers. Bigger stores usually use the same system from start to finish.

Printable version of this passage, with comprehension questions, in PDF form

Read and discuss the information, have students complete the comprehension questions, and then ask students to think of other kinds of trucks. This passage was about freight trucks, but students will also think of garbage trucks, fire trucks, dump trucks, and more.

Finish up by having students draw and label a picture that shows the most interesting thing they learned. Create a bulletin board or a class book. Alternatively, have students imagine a world without trucks and write about it.


Discuss the information in the passage above with students:

  1. Did students realize how much computers are now used in freight transportation? Truckers also often find their jobs by computer, with programs called “load boards.” There are also freight brokers who use computer programs to find the trucks and drivers (also called “carriers”) for customers who need things transported. Then manufacturers or farmers and stores can use computers to track the products between the factory or field and the store. Ask students if they think everyone needs to learn to use a computer now.
  2. Trucks use huge amounts of fossil fuel to carry goods from one place to another. According to government studies, trucks are responsible for about 20% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. New laws require big trucks to become more fuel efficient by 2018. Challenge students to think of ways that fuel use could be reduced. Possibilities include everything from more efficient truck designs to using things made or grown locally.
  3. The whole field of freight and getting things from one place to another is called “logistics.” Check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook’s page on this field. Have students conduct internet research to find jobs in the field of logistics in your area, and then to find colleges offering training in logistics. As a class or in small groups, compile a list of the jobs in the field, the skills and talents required for this type of work, and the pros and cons of the jobs.

Give students a typical logistics job to plan:

  • Have students imagine that they have a shipment of computer parts arriving from China or Japan.
  • They’ll arrive first at a dock in Los Angeles, and the class is responsible for getting the components to a computer factory in Cleveland.
  • Then the finished computers need to be shipped out to stores. One group of computers will be sent to a fulfillment house in Bentonville, Arkansas for “kitting” — they’ll be packed in special red boxes with some cool accessories for a Back to School promotion at a store in St. Louis.
  • The accessories will be going to the fulfillment house from a factory in Toronto and a warehouse in Virginia.
  • The red boxes are being made in Ft. Smith.

The class is responsible for getting the special computers in their snazzy boxes to St. Louis in time for the special Back to School promotion. Have students figure out how they’ll do it. They should consider the people they’ll need to hire, the trucks they’ll need, the information they’ll have to keep track of, and the schedule.

You could divide the class into teams and have each team present their plan, or have the class work together. Create flow charts once the plan is finalized.

Boats Lesson Plans

Boats are in many ways central to the human experience, so why not try out some classroom activities centered on boats? We’ll look at science and social studies from this exciting perspective.

There aren’t any boating bulletin board sets available from the major school supply publishers right now, but sailboats are easy to make from simple shapes. The one below was made in MS Paint with a trapezoid and a couple of triangles. Let young students practice shapes by creating sailboats and give them a sea to sail on with a couple of shades of blue kraft paper. Let older students do some research into boats and replicate favorites from the past or design their own.


Create some boats for your water table (we’ve successfully used a roasting pan for older students). Provide sturdy cardboard and aluminum foil, plus paper and pencils for taking notes (or spreadsheets for older students) and ask students to try these changes:

  • Shape Ask students to make a flat boat like a raft first. Will it float? If so, use gram weights to determine how much the boat will carry before it sinks. Then have students try a second shape, perhaps like the boat above. Before students test the boat, ask them to predict whether their differently-shaped boat will carry more or less than the flat one. Make sure to note the results.
  • Size Does the size of a boat affect how well it floats or how much it can carry? Compare the results of different sizes of boats made by students. Did students with larger boats have different results from those with smaller boats? If so, have other students try to replicate the results.

With younger students, the experiment might boil down to whether a flat cardboard raft will carry as much as a boat with sides they make from foil, and whether a bigger boat carries more than a smaller one. Older students should try multiple iterations to find the characteristics that make the most difference in carrying power for their boats.

Buoyancy and the Pontoon Effect from Manitou Boats has an interesting explanation of how displacement of water helps pontoon boats float. The article includes calculators that will let older students get more precise as they work on their boat experience. Allow plenty of time for exploration and you can create a wonderful project-based experience with math and science connections.

Check out our Think Like an Engineer post for inspiration on ways to approach problem solving lessons of this kind.

Social Studies

Explore the history of boating. Here are some online resources for the purpose:

While modern boats are not very different in different countries, boats in the past were quite different in different places. Have students choose different historic boats, such as the Viking longship, the Chinese junk, or the Algonquin birch bark canoe, to research and illustrate.

Post the drawings along your classroom timeline, attaching each one to the right year with a length of string. You could also put the illustrations on a map, either your classroom wall map or Google Earth. Creating a Google Earth tour with the illustrations would be a great classroom technology project.

Combine this activity with the science activity by noting and testing the sizes and shapes of the boats students find in their research. Create a chart showing the results.

Set up the Tahina Expedition in your computer center, too. Karen and Frank Taylor are spending five years sailing around the world, posting lots of maps and photos. It’s a wonderful resource, and letting students explore it during free time will add a dimension to your boats unit. Students can follow the journey on the map, read the blog, or search for information on places and things they’ve always wondered about. You can also look just at the categories on boat maintenance and boating life if you want to stick close to the subject of boats. Let Frank’s experiences round out your students’ understanding of modern boating life, and plan an imaginary sail around the world for your class.

Other resources:

Math Superheroes

 superhero math

Math and superheroes go together like Batman and Robin. If you’re using a superhero theme for your classroom, take advantage of that. Math class? Make it your ongoing theme.

There’s a ready-made bulletin board set:


Online resources:

Now think of all the math concepts you can cover with superheroes:


  • Superman is faster than a speeding bullet. Just how fast is that? The answer is more complicated than you might think, and you can see the wide range of speeds in a hypertextbook chart on the subject. The fastest speed offered there is 5,000 feet per second. Your class will need to get a good mental image of how far 5,000 feet is (Google Earth can help here) in order for this to mean much. Challenge them to convert feet per second to miles per hour (an online calculator makes it easy) for a more familiar calculation. As it happens, someone designed a hypersonic airliner that is expected to go just that fast. Once students get a clear mental image of how fast a speeding bullet is, ask them whether Superman is fast enough to accomplish the feats he’s called upon to do in the movies or comic books.  Read an essay on the question at Scienceray.
  • The Flash can run at 10 times the speed of light. The speed of light is the constant (C) in the famous equation E=MC2. Nothing is faster than the speed of light — except the Flash. Divide the class into teams and have each team create word problems based on this fact: how long would it take the Flash to get from one location in the world to another, for example. (Again, Google Earth is a great resource for this activity.)
  • The Superhero Database has a list of the superheroes who have super speed among their superpowers. Have students do research to find the speed of each hero (divide the list among the class) and graph their speeds.


  • The Superhero Database gives the heights and weights of more superheroes than you’ve ever heard of. Use the data to create charts and graphs. Compare the sizes of superheroes with those of ordinary people. Here are the U.S. government figures for Americans age 20 and up:


  • Height (inches):  69.4
  • Weight (pounds): 194.7


  • Height (inches):   63.8
  • Weight (pounds):  164.7

The Superhero Database uses a different format for its data. For example, here are the stats of Shirnking Violet:

  • Height: 5’6 // 168 cm
  • Weight: 120 lb // 54 kg

As a class, determine what format to use in preparing the superhero/ordinary people chart, and convert the data so it will be consistent. This is a great time to discuss why it’s important to do this when comparing information.

  • The same database lists superheroes who are able to change size as one of their superpowers. Challenge students to decide whether this would be a useful superpower in their lives. Have them calculate the size they’d like to be able to achieve, since this varies from one superhero to another, and write a paragraph explaining how they’d use this power.


  • One of the most famous superhero math party tricks is the Batman Equation which shows how to plot the Batman logo. The link takes you to a very thorough explanation of how this works. Can your students create an equation that makes a superhero log, either a familiar one or one they make up?
  • Angle Man was a villain, an enemy of Wonder Woman, who had a tool called the Angler which was able to  bend space, warp perceptions, and move people through time and space. It’s not clear to us how the Angler works, so it looks like a great opportunity for creativity. Challenge students to figure out how angles could be used in this way, and to draw a comic book style picture of the Angle Man using his Angler. If students are using protractors, they can measure and label the angles they draw.

We can’t leave this subject without mention of a favorite book of ours, now in its second edition: The Physics of Superheroes: Spectacular Second Edition by James Kakalios. This book should give you lots of ideas for ways to explore math with superheroes for secondary level students.

Check out some posts with more superhero ideas for your math superhero classroom:

« Previous PageNext Page »