The Halloween aftermath: graphing the candy, part I

Reposted from Halloween 2006.

Since Ben shared his family's taxonomy of candy types, and it's Friday, after all, I thought I'd share some of things that we do with candy around our house and describe some fun things that you can do with candy at home.i-c8e12594c8e6324919584154d2ccf530-candy_pile.jpg

Materials and methods. First, you need some candy. My husband and I used to get our candy fix from our kids, but only one of our children goes trick or treating these days. She's good, though. She works the blocks like a political volunteer a week before the election, hitting all of her friends' houses and the commercial district besides. We'll be using her loot for our data points.

There are two main ways that we use candy (besides the obvious).

I'll see your Jolly Rancher® and raise you a pack of Swedish fish®
We play poker. It costs a piece of hard candy to ante, and larger items, like a normal size bag of M&M's are worth 5 hard candies - like Jolly Ranchers. My husband and I use any left-over candy, that's rejected by the trick-or-treaters, for our stake, and we play until bedtime. We used to be able to whittle down the kids candy piles pretty quick since kids bet pretty wildly. Choose a game with a lot of wild cards and multiple rounds of betting, and it's easy to take candy from those babies. Do we feel guilty? Nah, candy is baaaaaad for children, right?

The candy distribution curve
The other thing that we do with Halloween candy is graph it. We started this game when our oldest child was in 2nd grade and her class was learning how to draw bar graphs. Naturally, we taught her how to graph her loot with Excel®.

The data in this table were obtained by counting the remains from child number two's candy stash.

Candy group



Chocolate bars

Snickers, Kit Kats, M &M's, Three musketeers, Milky
Way, Hershey's chocolate bars


Chocolate + peanut butter

Butterfingers, Reeses, Peanut chew


Chocolate + caramel

eyeballs, milk duds


Double monkey banana gum


Tart candy

Starburst, Skittles, Smarties, Sweetarts


Hard candy

Jolly Ranchers, etc.


Tootsie rolls




odd things

nerds, A&W root beer, gift certificates for Tae Kwon
Do, cupcake coupon



Tootsie pops, Dum Dums, etc.


Graphing the loot
Step 1. Data entry.
i-64a26a84a0649acdd2a21e512ef94e15-highlighted_table.gifI typed the data into an Excel spreadsheet and, like Ben, I grouped it together by the kind of candy. Then I pushed the mouse button down and dragged the pointer across the table to highlight all the data.

Step 2. Click the graph icon.
This icon is located in the standard tool bar on both PCs and Macs (You can make this appear by opening the View menu, holding the pointer over Toolbars, and selecting Standard).

Step 3. Select the picture that looks like the proper type of graph.

I chose the Chart subtype that looks like a histogram plot (or bar graph, depending on your discipline) and clicked Next. This is highlighted in the image on the right.

Step 4. Add a title and labels for the axes.i-f10dcb1fb7d8221835037b4b4c7963b1-graphing2.gif

Step 5. Fix the alignment of the label on the y axis.
I just clicked the title with my right mouse button and chose Format axis and changed the alignment.

and Voila! Click the graph image to see a larger picture.


Results and Discussion: You can see from the graph that chocolate and adulterated chocolate seem to be preferred by the candy purchasers in our neighborhood. I'm a big fan of those Swedish fish, but not a single pack showed up in kid 2's candy bag. Hmmmm. Maybe she knows.

Candy Anomalies

The candy bag did contain some unusual specimens. Out of 21 normal Kit Kat bars, there was one mutant Kit Kat made of white chocolate. She got coupons, one for two free weeks of Tae Kwon Do and another for a free cupcake. And, we live right by Archie McPhee's, a place where trick or treating is always fraught with uncertainty.

Archie McPhee's has unusual candy. They don't limit the selection to simple novelty items like Pop Rocks, bubble gum cigars, and chocolate cigarettes, Archies sells candy that's imbedded with real, dead, insects. This year they were handing out Double Monkey Banana Gum, fairly edible, and insect-free. I wonder where Ben would place insect candy on the hierarchy?

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Touche. This is indeed very compelling data. Maybe I should go re-run some of my numbers. (And then blame the technicians should the answers change.)

Oh no, Archie McPhees hands out candy? I guess that would be a drawback of the business district trick or treat evenings.

In terms of deciding the popularity of certain candies in the neighborhood, remember that each candy is not an independent sample: many families let kids take more than one piece, especially if the candy is small.

Er, enough of that.

Speaking of fun things to do with candy, some of my coworkers once made a large poster replacing words with the appropriate candy bars. It was a delicious goodbye letter.

This year at the Mond household, we distributed microwave popcorn packets and fortune cookies.

By Mustafa Mond, FCD (not verified) on 07 Nov 2006 #permalink

There must be a missing source of candy in this picture. Surely you bought candy to hand out at your house, and no one buys just the right amount; there should have been leftover. Otherwise you'd risk turning kids away with none.