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SOTW3: Are Peanut M&Ms shrinking?

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After doling out a king's ransom for 4 lbs of plain and peanut M&Ms, DS, DD, and I excitedly sat down to do the Black Hole of Calcutta project on p. 133 of the Activity Guide. We dutifully counted out 146 plain M&Ms (representing the people standing) which easily fit into our "prison." We then counted the peanut M&Ms (which represented the people sitting). They were not supposed to fit, but they easily all fit. Needless to say the effect was lost on the kids....they had to settle for just "eating the people" :lol:


So.... have peanut M&Ms gone the way of the half-gallon of ice cream????

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I don't know specifically about M&Ms, but many food manufacturers are shrinking the size of what they sell due to the soaring costs of commodities. They sell you less in order to keep the prices stable, and you don't necessarily notice it until you do something like what you described.


Two good articles that discuss this are:




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  • 1 month later...
Guest Fla Mom

I had the same problem, including the part about buying *way* too many M&M's. It really takes only 4.35 ounces of plain and 12.3 ounces of peanut M&Ms per 'Black Hole,' not the 2 pounds of each she calls for in the Activity Book. I'm not sure what happened with the numbers in the book, perhaps she thought we'd be teaching in a large-class setting. I'm also not sure if M&Ms have gotten smaller over time, but today I measured both M&Ms and my husband and worked out the following:


Regarding the real measurements:

The Black Hole was 25 x 18 feet, or 288 x 216 inches

1 person standing occupies about = 18 x 18 inches

288 in/18 in = 16 people who would fit long-wise in the Black Hole, standing

216 in/18 in = 12 people who would fit cross-wise in the Black Hole, standing

16 x 12 = 192 people would fit in the Black Hole, standing There were 146 people in the Black Hole, so all fit standing



1 person sitting occupies about 36 x 18 inches

288/36 = 8 people who would fit long-wise in the Black Hole, sitting

216 in/18 in = 12 people who would fit cross-wise in the Black Hole, sitting

8 x 12 = 96 people fit in the Black Hole, sitting, compared to the 146 present

Regarding measurements for the exercise:

1 plain M&M = 0.5 in

1 peanut M&M ~= 0.75 in (they are quite variable)


0.5 in x 16 'people' standing long-wise = 8 in

0.5 in x 12 'people' standing cross-wise = 6 in

Our Black Hole taped outline should be 8 x 6 inches, not 10 x 9 inches



All 146 ‘standing’ fit

115 ‘sitting’ fit, 31 left out (compared to our predicted 96 sitting people fitting)


48 'sitting' and 98 'standing' fit (starting from all ‘standing’ due to not reading the directions carefully)


While my 8-year-old son was not quite as interested in the math as I was, he did get the point and also had a great time eating M&Ms, as did my husband. I hope these calculations help others, and I hope future editions of the Activity Book are corrected.


Fla Mom


SOTW, Singapore Math, Ecce Romani, Real-Science-4-Kids

Supplementary reading and science; church-based activities; Scouting; horses; 4-H; shooting sports; county recreation baseball and football teams; fishing; homeschool play groups and field trips

Edited by Fla Mom
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LOL, if you are buying M&Ms by the pound, you will get MORE M&Ms in your package if each M&M is smaller. That seems like a larger candy to peanut ratio, which couldn't be cheaper for the candy maker I wouldn't think. Isn't chocolate and candy coating more expensive than peanuts? Or is working for peanuts really a good wage nowadays??? Thanks for the laugh.

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