Making Maths Meaningful: Jaggery Sweets and Bar Graphs



What an exciting week it has been for all of us! The markets are brimming with freshly harvested sugarcane and turmeric plants and our homes are spruced up for the Pongal festival. Even having a regular school day on Bhogi Pongal hasn’t put a damper on the children’s excitement.

Almost all of the students were looking forward to chewing on the sugarcane pieces. It reminded us, adults, that we too used to enjoy it. Now that we don’t have the patience to work our jaw muscles so much we can settle for good old sugarcane juice in a glass!


During the whole group discussion, the students brainstormed to create a list of products we get from sugarcane—juice, jaggery and sugar. They were able to identify the edible products. I asked them if they could think of a use for the bagasse, the fibrous residue after the juice is extracted from the sugarcane. It has set them thinking 🙂 . I’m waiting to see if they will come back from the holidays with some answers.

Chakarai Pongal or Sweet Pongal, the special dish made during Thai Pongal is made with jaggery, a sweetener obtained from sugarcane juice. Known as vellam in Tamil and gur in Hindi, jaggery is used to make several traditional Indian sweets. Since jaggery has an orangish or yellowish brown color, the sweets made with jaggery are in some shades of brown.


For today’s activity, we did a taste test of different jaggery sweets and recorded the kids’ likes and dislikes.

The food items we included are:

Plain jaggery
Sweet Pongal –
made with rice, milk and jaggery
sweet flatbread with sweet stuffing
– fried sweet made with rice flour and jaggery
Payasam or Kheer
Vella cheedai –
crunchy sweet balls made with jaggery

Plain jaggery made it to the list of sweets because, in the south, it is eaten as a side dish or in a mix of rice crispies (pori/murmura) and peanuts.

Jaggery Sweets and Bar Graphs


The students took a survey of the jaggery sweets they liked. They entered the data and created a bar graph to show how the sweets compared. The bar graph is a useful tool to compare numbers in different categories (in this case, different sweets). The bars show the information in a visual format allowing us to grasp the information quickly. Using the bar graph, the students identified the sweet(s) that the class liked the most/least.


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