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Halloween Math Activity: Haunted Houses and Bar Graphs, Oh My!

By Nim

Trying to scare up an inventive way of using Halloween themes to teach third grade-level content? This lesson plan delivers a creative idea that is so fun your students will be surprised it's still math.

Haunted House Excitement

Third graders love pictures, glue, scissors, and Halloween. This lesson combines all of the above and teaches about bar graphs to boot! The materials are simple: construction paper (black, brown, white, orange, and blue), scissors, and glue.

1. Begin with a little excitement - tell them that they will be making haunted houses! First, though, they need to gather information. They can either fill out a personal questionnaire or, to practice data gathering, they can acquire the details from someone else and make the picture for that person.

2. You can vary the questions you use, but each answer will correspond to an element of the picture.

I'll provide an example. How many people are in your family? Answer indicates the number of ghosts in the picture. How many pets do you have? Answer indicates the number of pumpkins in the pictures. Are you a boy or a girl? Answer will determine the color of the roof on the house. How many rooms in your house? Answer indicates the number of bats in the picture. In what month were you born? Answer indicates the message on the haunted house's sign.

3. After the students have answered all questions, they can begin working on their glyphs, by cutting out ghosts, bats, pumpkins, and whatever other elements you have decided to include in your haunted house project.

4. Students glue those pieces on a large piece of construction paper. It is always helpful to provide an example for the less artistically inclined.

Scary Bar Graphs

With a little artistic license, you can turn a bar graph into a spooky Halloween scene. Once all students have answered all questions, and before they become too involved in their pictures, take a break and introduce a whole class lesson on bar graphs.

1. Choose a question for the whole class, one which has a number for an answer, and gather data. For instance, if I choose the "people in your family" question, I would compile how many students had two people in their families, how many had three, how many had four, and so on.

2. Compile the data in a table. Continuing the example above, my two categories would be: Number of People in the Family, Number of Students.

3. As a class, create a bar graph to match the data. The y-axis will be labeled Number of Students, and the x-axis will labeled after the question you chose. In my example, the x-axis would be labeled Number of People in the Family.

4. While you draw the bar graph on the board, have students follow along at their desks by drawing their own version of the bar graph.

Students can then return to their haunted masterpieces. If you gather the finished product, you will also have spooky decorations to add a festive Halloween spirit to your room. With applicable math standards, crafty haunted houses, and happy students, everyone benefits from this fun Halloween math activity.


Many thanks to Joan Regens, Matt Hough, and the excellent third grade team at Esperanza Elementary School who introduced me to these haunted houses. Another thank you for Tom Hoopingarner, who taught me all about glyphs and their educational value.