The Marshmallow Challenge in the Elementary Classroom

Using Food to Learn
Creating Structures with Collaboration

Approximately two months ago I noticed a Twitter post about something called the Marshmallow Challenge.  The tweet led me to this TED video.  Many of the examples indicated that the challenge could be used with adults as well as students.  The official Marshmallow Challenge website offers many useful instructions and tips for facilitators.  I decided to use the challenge with a fourth grade classroom.  The session, from start to finish, took approximately 45 minutes.  The standard 18 minute time limit to work on the project was perfect for my classroom.  Of course the focus of this project emphasizes teamwork, but I decided to add a few measurement standards. For example, the students were required to measure the length of each pasta stick used and find the volume of the marshmallow (as a cylinder).  The total height of the structure was also measured.  Here are a few pictures from the event:

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The class had a debriefing session after the event.  During this discussion, students revealed their strategy.  Here were some of the questions that were discussed.

  • What will the base of the structure look like?
  • Will we use all of the materials?
  • What are our roles?
  • How will we work as a team?
  • How does working as a team help us succeed?
  • Will we wait to put the marshmallow on top at the very end or test it throughout the project?
  • Should we write out a plan in advance?
  • How should we work together?
  • What are other groups doing?

Overall, this learning experience gave students an opportunity to use critical thinking in a collaborative setting.   I’m planning on having students complete a plus/delta chart and complete an entry in their math journals next week.  

*Picture credit: Stoon

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