Lessons for Little Ones by Tina O'Block Blog Logo

How to Set Up a Meaningful and Fun Thanksgiving Math Center

Meaningful & Fun Thanksgiving Math Practice

I was looking for a way to make common core math standards practice more meaningful and fun for students and it hit me – combine a favorite game concept with learning math! My students love playing Stuff the Turkey during Thanksgiving week – they toss stuffing ingredients into a paper bag turkey. I wanted to capture the fun of the game with the real-life concept of stuffing and cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.  So I created a Stuff the Turkey math center and small group activity.

I not only needed to have a meaningful learning center that students would want to use but it also needed to be differentiated because my students have a wide range of learning levels. This is what I came up with and it has worked wonderfully so far!

Stuff the Turkey Math Center

I made the turkey for the center similar to the turkey we use for the stuff the turkey game using brown paper lunch bags, scrap paper, and white tissue paper.

Thanksgiving turkey for math center

I had students help me make the stuffing by wadding up pieces of scrap paper.  We used green for celery, brown for bread, and white for onions.

Thanksgiving math center stuffing pieces

When setting up this Thanksgiving center I wanted it to be realistic so I added a few kitchen props – a turkey baster, serving dish, pan, tongs (for fine motor practice) – along with the paper bag turkey, stuffing pieces, recipe cards, center directions, and exit ticket pages.

Thanksgiving turkey differentiated math center

I used this in my small groups first so that I could explain how to use it before putting it in a center.  I told students that they were in charge of stuffing and cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner this year and there are many different recipes out there for turkey stuffing to try.  Each recipe is different as far as what ingredients it uses.

Read the recipe card

The first thing students do is read their recipe card.  Each recipe card is different according to the skill on which it focuses and the skill level.  I color coded them so I could easily keep them straight and differentiate for my students.

Counting to 10 and Counting to 20

The first set of cards focuses on counting skills (common core standards K.CC.A.3, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5).  Some students still need practice with numbers 1-10 while others work on the “tricky teens” 11-20.  Students read the total number of stuffing pieces and put the correct amount in the turkey.

Thanksgiving stuffing math center counting card

Addition to 5 and Addition to 10

The next set of cards focuses on addition (common core standards K.OA.A.1, K.OA.A.2, K.OA.A.5).  Some students work on addition to 5 while others are ready for addition to 10. Students combine the 2 ingredients shown on the recipe card by counting out each ingredient and adding them to the turkey.

Making 10

The last set of cards focuses on making 10 from numbers 1-9 (common core standard K.OA.A.4).  Students have to figure out the missing ingredient on their recipe card. The recipe calls for 10 total pieces of stuffing, however the recipe card does not show how much bread to add to the recipe to make 10. Students use the turkey and stuffing pieces to solve the problem. The different colored ingredients make it easier for students to visualize the math problem.

Thanksgiving math center make 10 card

Stuff the Turkey

After students read the ingredients needed for their recipe they count and add the correct amount of stuffing pieces to the turkey.  I place a set of tongs at the center to give them that all important fine motor skill practice!

Thanksgiving math center fine motor skills

“Cook” & “Baste” the Turkey

This step is optional but I add it in to help make the center more realistic and fun for students.  They lay the turkey in the pan and use the baster to pretend to baste the turkey.

Thanksgiving turkey math center

Serve and Count the Stuffing

After the turkey is “cooked” it is ready to serve.  Students remove the stuffing from the turkey by dumping it in the bowl.

Thanksgiving math center

Students then count the total number of stuffing pieces their recipe made. The fact that the stuffing pieces are different colors helps students visualize the addition problem and the making 10 activity.

Thanksgiving stuffing counting math center

Record Findings on Exit Ticket Page

I tell students that they need to “take notes” about how much stuffing each recipe they tried made by completing an exit ticket page.  These pages are also differentiated according to my students’ skill levels.

I made two differentiated counting exit ticket pages – one that requires students to match the number from their recipe card to a number on their exit ticket and fill in the ten frame and one where they are required to write the number from their recipe card and fill in the ten frame.

I also made differentiated addition exit ticket pages – one that provides the two numbers from the recipe card and the student is required to just write the sum and one that requires the student to write the entire addition equation.

The exit ticket page for making 10 requires students to fill in the missing number (ingredient) to make 10.

Thanksgiving math addition

Students enjoyed this center so much that they also use it in our dramatic play kitchen area – learning through play is the best!!

If you would like to use this fun and meaningful Thanksgiving math center with your students it is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store – CLICK HERE.

Thanksgiving Math Center for Common Core Standards

You may also like:

Using the Sensory Bin for Math and Literacy

Thanksgiving Turkey Math and Literacy Centers

Thanksgiving Addition to 10, Subtraction to 10 Printable Pages

Free Thanksgiving Student Gift Tags & Treat Bag Toppers

Thanksgiving Bingo, Lotto (Numbers, Counting, Skip Counting) Differentiated

Hi! Thanks for stopping by!

I’m Tina and I’ve taught preK and K for 20+ years. I share fun and creative ideas that spark your students’ love for learning. 


-Featured Products-

Follow my TpT store to find out about new resources & freebies!

-Affiliate Disclosure-

Some of the Amazon links on Lessons for Little Ones are affiliate links. If you purchase a product after clicking an affiliate link, I receive a small percentage of the sale for referring you, at no extra cost to you. Purchasing through affiliate links is an easy, painless way to help out your favorite bloggers. Thank you so much for your continued support!