Marshmallow and Toothpick Shapes

Marshmallow and Toothpick Shapes
To provide experiences with building
2-dimensional and 3-dimensional shapes.
Whole Group
Small Group
Key Concepts and Skills
• Construct 2- and 3-dimensional shapes and explore their properties. [Geometry Goal 1]
• Identify names of 2- and 3-dimensional shapes. [Geometry Goal 1]
Terms to Use dimension, 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional shape names
Materials Home Link Master (Math Masters, p. 51); miniature marshmallows; round toothpicks; cardstock
Core Activities
䉴 Making Geometric Shapes
Place marshmallows and toothpicks in the Math or Art Center. Demonstrate
how to connect the toothpicks and marshmallows to make 2- and 3-dimensional
shapes and structures, then encourage children to see what they can make with
the materials. Children might make flat creations, or they might build upward or
outward. They may make designs, discrete shapes (triangles, cubes, and so on), or
representational models, such as houses or rocket ships. In each case, talk with children
about the shapes you notice in their constructions (for example, a triangular roof on a
2-dimensional house or a cube as the base of a 3-dimensional house). Promote
exploration and discovery with questions about children’s work, such as: How did you
make that window? What shapes did you use? Have you figured out how to make a cube?
How many marshmallows and toothpicks do you need? Can you think of a way to attach
those triangles to each other? Place children’s shape creations on pieces of cardboard or
cardstock and display them around the room. If you use portfolios, take photographs of
children’s creations to place in their portfolios.
Planning Tip Slightly stale
marshmallows work best for
this activity.
Home Link 7 4
(Math Masters, p. 51)
7 4
Children use toothpicks and marshmallows to make shapes at home.
䉴 Dividing Groups in Half
(Revisit Activity 6䉬11, p. 304)
Show children different numbers of marshmallows (some odd, some even). Have
children work together to divide the collections in half. Discuss and try out children’s
ideas for dividing the odd-numbered collections equally.
Teaching Options
Using toothpicks and miniature marshmallows or gumdrops as building materials helps
children develop their understanding of 2- and 3-dimensional shapes. Your child may use the
materials to build structures (buildings, vehicles, 3-dimensional designs) that are made up of
common geometric shapes. You can help your child learn more about shapes and numbers
by talking about his or her project. You might ask questions such as:
Are there any squares in your structure?
How many triangles did you make? How many rectangles?
Which shapes keep their shape the best?
Do any shapes have more toothpicks than marshmallows or gumdrops?
Build shapes and structures with toothpicks and
marshmallows or gumdrops.
Begin with flat 2-dimensional shapes, and then try
building 3-dimensional shapes such as cubes,
pyramids, and prisms.
Copyright © Wright Group/McGraw-Hill
Building Geometric Shapes
Bring one or two of your shapes to school.
䉴 Making Shapes with Straws
Children who enjoy working with marshmallows and toothpicks might also enjoy the
challenge of building shapes and structures with straws. Demonstrate how to connect
straws by bending a twist tie or pipe cleaner in half and inserting half in the opening
of one straw and half in the opening of another straw. (A small diameter straw works
best.) Place the materials in a center and invite children
to continue their shape explorations.
Talk with children about the shapes
they make.
䉴 Drawing with Shapes
Read Picture Pie or Picture Pie 2 by Ed Emberley
(Little Brown, 1984 and 1996) and show children
how the author makes pictures using various shapes.
Encourage interested children to experiment with these
techniques on the writing and drawing pages in their
math books.
341 Activity 7 4 Marshmallow and Toothpick Shapes
Math Masters, p. 51
Recognizing Student
Use Dividing Groups in Half to
assess children’s ability to model
half of a collection. Children are
making adequate progress if
they understand that both halves
must be equal.
[Number and Numeration Goal 4]