Messiness and Math

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Play dough is universally loved by children. When children design their own play dough, STEM concepts and questions are integral to the activity. What happens when you mix different substances? How can we design better play dough? As children measure the ingredients (flour, water, salt, and food coloring), they also engage in the mathematics of counting scoops, adding fractions, and discussing ratios. In this lesson, children were challenged to design the highest quality play dough and determine the best recipe

Contributor Notes

Mollie H. Appelgate,, is a mathematics and STEM teacher educator at Iowa State University in Ames.

Constance Beecher,, works as an assistant professor of literacy and extension and outreach specialist at Iowa State University in Ames. They are both interested in integrating literature into STEM instruction.

Edited by Melissa M. Soto,, an assistant professor of mathematics education in the School of Teacher Education at San Diego State University. Contributors to the iSTEM department share ideas and activities that stimulate student interest in the integrated fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in K–grade 6 classrooms. Send submissions of no more than 1500 words to this department by accessing See detailed submission guidelines for all departments at

(Corresponding author is Appelgate
(Corresponding author is Beecher
(Corresponding author is Soto
Teaching Children Mathematics
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