Beacon Lesson Plan Library

A Bar of Many Colors

Janet Greathouse
Bay District Schools


Students use colored candies to collect data, construct double bar graphs, and find averages.


The student writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of content and experiences from a variety of media.

The student uses and justifies different estimation strategies in a real-world problem situation and determines the reasonableness of results of calculations in a given problem situation.

The student solves problems by generating, collecting, organizing, displaying, and analyzing data using histograms, bar graphs, circle graphs, line graphs, pictographs, and charts.

The student determines range, mean, median, and mode from sets of data.


- Internet assessible computers
- Colored candy--(such as M&Ms, Skittles, etc)--one package per student
- Teacher-made task cards (see Lesson Procedures)
- Crayons
- Paper
- Pencils


1. Gather one bag of colored candies per student
2. Prepare task cards
3. Gather paper, pencil, crayons for groups
4. Check computer connectivity for student online lesson, -How It All Stacks Up-


Students work in groups to collect data and complete double bar graphs.They need some knowledge of averaging numbers and making graphs . Before beginning the following activities, have students complete the online lesson -How It All Stacks Up,- from the Beacon Learning Center during center or computer time.

1. Give students their own bag of colored candies. (DO NOT OPEN YET!)

2. Have the following task cards already made up. Provide at least two task cards per group (i.e., two #1 task cards, two #2 task cards) for easy access. All groups begin with Task Card #1. As they complete that task, they are given the next card, and then the next.

TASK CARD #1: (REMEMBER: Your bag of candies is closed!)
On a sheet of paper each student writes and answers these questions:
1.Estimate the number of colored candies in your package.
2.How many different colors do you think there are in the package?
3.What are the colors?
4.What color do you think occurs most often?
5.What color occurs the least?
6.Look at the packages in your group. Do you think that all of the packages weigh the same?
7.What would be a way to find out the answer to question 6?

1.On another sheet of paper, each student makes a three column chart and labels one column -Colors,- one column -Estimate,- and leaves the third column blank for now.
2.In the -Color- column, write the names of the colors you think are in the bag. In the -Estimate- column, write the number of candies you think are in the bag for each color.

1.Add a third column to the color/estimate chart and label it -Actual.-
2.Open your colored candies--BUT WAIT! DON'T EAT THEM YET!
3.First, write down any colors that are in the bag but not on the chart.
4.Then, count the actual colors of candy and write that number in the -Actual- column.

1. Use the information gathered and a clean sheet of paper, to make a double bar graph comparing your estimated amounts for each color to the actual amounts.
2. Title the graph. Be sure the title tells what the graph is about.
3. Use a key to tell what the colors mean (select one color for -estimate- and another for -actual-).
4. Label the x-axis -Color- and the y-axis -Number of colored candies.-
5. Make sure the graph is neatly done and well organized.

1.As a group, share actual amounts and make a group chart with three columns titled -Colors,- -Number of candies,- and -Group Average.-
2. The -Group Average- is the average number of candies per color. For example, if there are 5 people in your group and you have 15 red candies, divide the 15 candies among the 5 people. In this example, the group average would be 3, because each person receives 3 red candies. Put this number in the third column. *Remember, there can't be remainders, so round up!
3. Discuss the following question and write a group answer on the bottom of the chart: -Why do you think everyone didn't have the same amount of colored candies in their bag?-

When all centers have been completed, students discuss and answer the following questions on the back of the sheet of paper used for Task Card #1.
1. Tell how you came up with the estimates for the colored candies. For example, did you a) take a wild guess each time, b) count candies in a small section of the bag and then estimate, c) try to count the candies in the whole bag, etc.?

2.Make a statement about something the double bar graph tells you.

3.What was your overall feeling about this project?
a. What parts did you dislike?
b. Besides eating the candy, what parts did you like?

4.On a scale from 1 to 10 (the highest is 10), rate the following:
___ The colored candies activity
___ The quality of your work
___ Your effort to do well



Formatively assess the following pieces of work:

-Predictions made on Task Card #1
Criteria: Review predictions to see that students 1) write and answer each question, and 2) determine a reasonable estimate of a quantity--the number of colored candies in the package.

-Chart from Task Cards #2 and #3
Criteria: Collect and review students' charts to see that 1) they labeled and completed the three columns -Color,- -Estimate,- and -Actual,- and 2) determined reasonable estimates for each color candy--the individual estimates total the estimate given on Task Card #1, question 1.

-Double Bar Graph from Task Card #4
Criteria: Students generate a double bar graph including a 1) title, 2) key, 3) labels for the x- and y-axes, and 4) correctly graphed data.

-Group Chart from Task Card #5
Criteria: Students use concrete materials (candy) to determine the mean of each colored candy. The group chart displays the combined data and the group average.

-Wrap-Up Questions
Criteria: Students' written responses for questions 1 and 2 reflect an understanding of estimation strategies and reading data displays as evidenced by their ability to:1) describe and explain how they estimated their candy, and 2) interpret and explain the data displayed on the double bar graph.

Web Links

Web supplement for A Bar of Many Colors
How It All Stacks Up

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