Nuts about Math

Nuts about Math

September 29, 2014

A few years ago, I came across an easy acorn craft that I thought would be perfect for my preschooler. There was only one problem: I lived in a neighborhood with very few mature trees. Try as I might, I couldn’t find an acorn to save my life. Today we live in a different house, and our backyard contains one of the mightiest oaks I’ve ever seen. It’s huge! I laugh to think of that fall when I searched high and low for a handful of acorns. Now I can find a hundred on my back deck.

You might dismiss the acorn as a simple squirrel snack. However, if you can manage to squirrel a few away, you’ll find yourself with a basket full of natural math material.

The gathering of acorns is half the fun. I love escaping from our phones and screens to spend time in nature with my kids. Grab a small basket and announce that you’re going on a family acorn hunt. There are lots of ways to measure how you’ll fill the basket. You can work on fractions – “Tell me when the basket is half full.” Or you can work on counting – “Can you find 10 acorns for me?” Ask them gather all kinds of acorns.  The big ones, little ones, ones with caps, and ones without caps.

Make Acorn Tops

Pick out a few of the “hat-less” acorns for a fun game. The only other supplies you’ll need are a few wooden matchsticks and a nail about the same diameter as the matchstick. Push or gently pound the nail in to make a hole for the matchstick.

Ta-dah! Now you’ve made your own acorn spinning tops!

Go nuts for math! Make acorn spinning tops at

Practice spinning the tops. Try these challenges once your crew has mastered spinning:

  • Whose acorn can spin the longest?
  • How many acorn tops can you get spinning simultaneously?
  • Is it easier to spin the tops clockwise or counterclockwise?
  • Make one of these spinning top game boards and see who can get the most points.

At one time Native Americans used acorns for food, jewelry, and even medicine to calm upset stomachs. Acorns can be dried and stored for many years, and ground into flour for cooking and baking. Much like you’re doing today, Native American children made acorn tops and used them to play games.

I left our basket of acorns on the table for a day, along with a tray, a few bowls, and a kitchen scale. This turned out to be a perfect station for a variety of sorting, measuring and weighing activities.

My kids sorted the acorns by size as well as other defining characteristics, like whether or not they had caps.

They also divided the acorns into two bowls and tried get each bowl to weigh exactly the same amount. It was interesting to then count the number of acorns in each bowl. See for yourself if equal weight indicates the same number of acorns per bowl.

If all this nutty fun has made you hungry, whip up some of these sweet autumn acorn treats from the Bedtime Math blog. After that, get crackin’ on this acorn-themed Bedtime Math problem.

Images courtesy of Angie Six

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