M&M Jar Answers Explained

One of the ways I engage students in math in the beginning of the school year is with 3 act tasks.   I don’t do worksheets.  I don’t do computer programs (that are not a directive from my principal).  I don’t do fast facts.  

I do immersive math.  I do engaging math.  I do conversational math.  I do active math.  

At the beginning of every year I break out a few 3 act tasks so that they students will learn the routine and my expectations with the routine.   This year, I decided to change things up and try out my lesson M&M Jar.  I had done a presentation on 3 Act Tasks in Texas and used this exact lesson.  To my surprise,  the participants answers didn’t match up to the answers given in the 3rd act.  This is a lesson that I had designed over 6 years ago and wanted to try it out for myself.

We started with a little notice and wonder.  From what you see, the students were completely on point with moving through the lesson. 


We then moved on to figuring out our main question. Again..students were in-tune with where we were headed. 

By act 3 (where it’s time to find out how many M&Ms are in the jar)…the students were on fire.  

Check this video out of one of my students explaining how he got his answer.  (notice the decomposing language)

Sounds great…right?  And all the students got the answer of 226.  

However….here is the answer.

The discussion became about why the picture showed 234 M&M candies and not 226.    And it’s really dependent on the question being asked.   This “answer” showed how many M&Ms were there all together (including before some were taken out of the jar).  This answer didn’t match up to any of the questions we had been asking.  My class –trying to make sense of all of it–still gave themselves a pat on the back when they explained this to me.

When I presented this to teachers, a few teachers said they assumed that not every bag of M&Ms had the same exact number of candies.

Sometimes mistakes can bring a multitude of conversation and sense making!  

Until next time,


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