I am a huge fan of using PBLs in math. I think it is a great way to not only incorporate real world scenarios into the classroom but also make math engaging and fun! I also know that keeping students focused when a holiday and break are right around the corner is a huge challenge and that’s why I love using this Thanksgiving Dinner PBL to keep students focused and to build on those critical thinking skills!

In this activity students will plan a Thanksgiving dinner that includes cleaning the house, renting table and chairs, purchasing tableware, shopping for ingredients, calculating cook time all while in a budget! This is a very detailed PBL and is a great activity for students to work on in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving

First students will start off by creating their guest list. They can invite who normally would attend their thanksgiving dinner each year, or they can make this year more interesting and invite their classmates. Their budget is based on the number of people attending their Thanksgiving dinner. So they more people that attend the more money they get to spend; but it also means more food and supplies to purchase!

An easy way to differentiate this activity is by adjusting how many guests the students are required to invite. The less people at the dinner, the less challenging this project will be. Push your higher ability students by making the guest list requirement higher! Just in real life, it’s much harder to plan for a dinner for 30 people than it is for just 4 people!

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a lot of cleaning before your guests come over, right? Even in this PBL you have to get your house clean! Luckily, students get to hire someone to clean their place. The cost of cleaning will be based on the size of their actual home. Students will look at a table and see how long it will take for someone to clean their house based on how many bedrooms they have. using the hourly rate provided students must calculate the cost of having someone clean up AND they have to include this when calculating their budget!

Time to pull out some extra tables and chairs! Students will drag tables and chairs to their floor plan and decide just how they want the furniture set up. They will also have to write a written expression that shows how to calculate the number of tables and chairs. Finally, they will calculate how much it will cost to rent all the table and chairs for the night.

And because we know those table you rent are not always the nicest…you will need to pick out some tablecloths from your local party store. Pick out something classy and neat or something wild and funky they choice is up to your student! Not only will they calculate the cost to purchase the table cloths but they will have to find the area and perimeter of the table cloths too! Got to make sure you get the right sized cloth for the table after all.

We can’t eat with our hands can we? Students have to purchase all the tableware: forks, knives, plates, cups and napkins. Again, they can pick out something timeless or trendy. They just better make sure they order enough!

The star of the show on Thanksgiving is the turkey, and there is a lot to think of! First, those students better make sure they get enough turkey for everyone. At 1 1/2 pounds per person they will have to figure out the smallest size turkey they can purchase for their dinner. Then they will actually have to go find a frozen turkey and calculate the costs.

Buying the turkey is not enough, don’t we all have to do that dreaded math every year to find out how long it’s going to take to defrost? 24 hours of defrost for every 5 pounds…it’s going to take a while to get that turkey thawed!

Finally, what we have been waiting for, time to cook that turkey! They have to make sure it’s done by 5, so they better double check that math and make sure they have cooked it for enough time. At 15 minutes of cook time per 1 pound, they will need to get it in that oven early!

Some people might argue it’s the side dishes that make Thanksgiving special so you can’t forget them. Students can choose from mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. They choose 2 and look up the recipes to see the ingredients they need to shop for. They also need to pay attention to the serving size, they might have to double or even triple their recipe! They can’t forget the drinks or the pie either. Is it even possible to have a Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie!

Planning a big dinner can be a juggling act. So many things to cook, all with different cook times? Those students better watch the clock and watch their math to make sure you put everything in the oven at just the right time. Raw turkey and dried out stuffing is not how you want your evening to start!

You didn’t think I would forget the big game on Thanksgiving! Whose playing the big game today? Your students decide! They will calculate the points and tell me how their favorite team crushed the other team!

Did your student stay on budget? They will calculate the total cost of everything and find out just how expensive it is to host Thanksgiving dinner!

Keep your students engaged, learning and thinking by giving them this Thanksgiving Dinner PBL! Make sure to tell me how it goes in your classroom! I love to hear how much students love these PBLs.

Like this idea, but needs a different holiday theme? Check out our other PBLs to keep your kids busy year round!

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