Provide a class button box. Using a transparent container enables
students to readily observe some properties and begin to consider
classification strategies. Pass the container and have each student
select two buttons. (Asking students to close their eyes when choosing
might expedite the process of selecting buttons.) Ask each student to
consider how his or her two buttons are alike and how they are
different. Invite students to exchange one button and repeat the
activity. In the prekindergarten and kindergarten classes, the teacher
will record similarities on a chart such as the one shown below.
First- and second-grade students may do this as a class activity or individually on the Alike and Different activity sheet.
Post the list of likenesses and differences in the classroom and
amend or extend it as needed. This discussion helps students identify
multiple variables and helps them become more flexible in their
The following activity is based on the story The Elves and the Shoemaker
and allows students to sort shoes. In it students have the opportunity
to experience another method of displaying data using a Venn Diagram,
which causes them to relate data in a different way.
The teacher reads the story as students sit around in a
circle. Students take off their shoes and discuss ways to group the
shoes. Two non-overlapping hula-hoops are placed where all can see
them. One file card is placed in each hoop. The identified properties
are recorded on a chart for future reference. These labels should be
chosen so they do not overlap such as brown and large or brown and not
brown. The shoes are organized within the hula-hoops according to their
properties listed on the file cards. Labels for the sorts are
determined by a discussion among the students and teacher. Have
students tell how the shows in each hoop are alike. Count the number of
shoes in each group.
Some questions that would help promote an understanding of the mathematics would be the following:
What kinds of shoes do our class members wear?
How are they alike?
How are they different?
How did we decide to place shoes within the groups?
Is there another way that we could sort our shoes?
Students can next discuss attributes (such as color, style, or
material) that could be used to classify the shoes worn by members of
the class, sort the shoes, and then represent the results in a Venn
diagram, in a table, and in a graph. A blank floor graph made from
butcher paper or a shower curtain makes it easy for young children to
place their shoes in a column, see the number in each, and discuss the
information that can be derived from the graph. The columns should be
labeled and a title should be chosen. In addition, the students should
predict the types of shoes worn by the students in other classes in the
Use the Elves and Shoemaker Activity Sheet to record the results of the class discussion.
to previous documentation about the status of the class regarding
students’ understanding of properties and their ability to sort and
classify objects. Identify students who are ready for the next activity
and challenge them with steps beyond this lesson. (For example, “My
button has….(properties from the chart).” “My button does not
have…(Properties from the chart).” Students can record their responses
on the My Button Has and Hasn't Activity Sheet.
- Organize those students that need additional practice into
small groups and provide similar activities with different objects such
as keys, shells, or beads. The questions as in the previous lesson are
Further extensions include asking students to create another story
about elves making other kinds of clothing. A preliminary discussion
could focus on the properties of the clothing and the types of clothing
that the elves could make. Or, have students draw a picture of the main
idea of the story or compose a class letter thanking the elves for
making the shoes.
Questions for Students
1. Which properties on the chart could you use to sort your buttons?
2. Which pairs of properties could you use to sort your buttons?
3. What properties are not on the list that could fit your buttons?
4. Could you find someone with buttons like yours?
- Which similarities did students notice when creating their Venn Diagrams?
- Which differences did students notice?
- What other learning experiences would enable students to compare properties
of concrete objects and would also be important to the students?
- What additional learning experiences do students need?
- Are students able to accurately name the properties of the buttons?
- Which properties do most of the students attend to?
- Are students able to use more than one property to sort the buttons?
- Use the terms "alike" and "different" to make comparisons
- Identify multiple variables when sorting
- Use Venn Diagrams to compare properties
NCTM Standards and Expectations
- Pose questions and gather data about themselves and their surroundings.
- Sort and classify objects according to their attributes and organize data about the objects.
Common Core State Standards – Mathematics
-Kindergarten, Measurement & Data
Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count.
Grade 1, Measurement & Data
Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.
Common Core State Standards – Practice
Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
Model with mathematics.
Use appropriate tools strategically.
Look for and make use of structure.