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How Many Letters Are in Your Name?

  • Lesson
Number and Operations
Deeanna D. Golden
Marianna, FL

Students review numbers 1 to 10 by counting the number of letters in their names and their classmates' names. They also write and order numbers. The class compiles students' finished product in a class book.

This is a great beginning get-to-know-you activity for first grade as a activity, and as a review of ordinal numbers. For a kindergarten class, students should be familiar with their own name, and this lesson should be taught after you have taught the numbers 1 to 10.

pdficon Letters in My Name Cutouts 

Before beginning this lesson, prepare the following items for each student:

  • Print each student's name on a sentence strip. Prepare a strip with your name also.
  • Cut the Letters in My Name cutouts so that each student will have 1 sentence strip, 1 number line, and 1 ten frame.
  • Have 1 piece of construction paper for each student to make a page for the class book.

Students use these sentence strips to create a page for a class "Letters in Our Names" book. A sample completed page is shown below.

3263 example 

Display the prepared name strips on a pocket chart or anything similar that allows students to see everyone's name.

To introduce the lesson, tell students that today they are going to compare names. Ask, "What is different about your names?" [They have different letters; boys’ and girls’ names; some are longer, some are shorter; and so on.]

Show students a name that is very short and one that is long. Ask, "What is different about these two names?"[Students may respond that the letters are different; one is a boy's name one is a girl's name; and so on.] Try to get students to come up with the answer that one has a lot of letters and the other does not. Point out that everyone's name is different, and their names have different numbers of letters.

Ask students take turns finding their name on the pocket chart and taking it back to their seats.

Explain that students are going to find out how many letters are in everyone's name in three different ways.

Distribute a blank ten frame to each student. Ask students to spell out their names on the ten frame such that each letter gets its own box (students can use their name strip to help them, if necessary). Write from left to right, and use the second row if necessary. Demonstrate by using your own name and a document camera or overhead projector. Ask students to count how many letters are in their names. Ask a few students to share.

Distribute a number line to each student. Ask students to spell their names out on the number line such that each letter gets their own box. Demonstrate on a document camera or overhead projector by using your own name. Ask a few students to share how many letters are in their names.

Now have students cut their name strips (in between each letter). The letters will become their manipulatives. Demonstrate by using the strip with your name. While students are cutting their name strips, give each student a sentence strip.

Have each student count their letters, while you listen for accuracy. Ask students to tell you what number to write on their sentence strip. You may want them to write the number themselves.

Students then glue their names on a piece of construction paper, leaving a small space between each letter. They then glue on their completed sentence strip, number line and ten frame.

Have students look at their neighbor's name. Ask, "Who has the shorter name, you or your neighbor? How do you know?" They can share responses with the class, comparing their name with other students' names. Encourage students to use the number on the sentence strip, the number line and the ten frame to justify their responses.

Students can finish their page for the class book by gluing on a snapshot of themselves or drawing a picture of themselves.

When everyone's page is finished, put the class book in order by asking, "If we started our book with the shortest name and went to the longest name, whose name would be first? Explain." Brainstorm with students to put the rest of the class book in order. Use the ordinal numbers first through tenth when putting the book together. (Note: If the shortest names are Amy, Ben, and Mia, then all three came first.)

During circle time, read the class book as a group, allowing students to come up and read their page to the class. Each student can also lead the class in counting the letters in his or her name. Remember to review the ordinal numbers as you are reading the book.

Place the completed book in your class library. It will be revisited many times during students' free time, making the class book a great review of numbers 1 to 10.

In the ClassroomSuccessStoryThumb

Read about how this author got involved in her Success Story. 

  • Letters in My Name Cutouts 
  • Sentence strips with each student's name
  • Scissors
  • Construction paper
  • Glue
  • Document camera or overhead projector
  • Photograph of each student (optional)
  • Computers or tablets with internet access (optional; for extension)

Assessment Options

  1. Use the Questions for Students to determine which students have an understanding of cardinal and ordinal numbers from 1 to 10.
  2. Listen for accuracy as each student counts the letters in his or her name.
  3. Use their completed name page to determine if the students were able to write the number of letters in their names. This information will be helpful in developing small or individual grouping for interventions or enrichment.


  1. Graph the number of letters in each student’s name on a class graph. This creates another tool for students to use when practicing counting and comparing their name with those of their classmates.
  2. Have students play Ten Frame in the "How Many?" mode.
    appicon Ten Frame 

Questions for Students 

1. Look at the names of students in our class. What is different about everyone's name? 

[They have different numbers of letters; some are long and some are short.] 

2. Point out a short name and a long name, and ask, "What is the difference in these two names?" 

[One is shorter or longer; one has fewer or more letters.] 

3. How did you find out what number you needed to finish your sentence? 

[By counting the letters in my name.]  

4. Is your name longer or shorter than your neighbor's name? 

[Answers will vary.]  

5. If we arrange our class book from shortest name to the longest name, whose name will be first? 

[Answers will vary, depending on the names of students in your class.] 

6. Show students the pages of the book. Ask them to complete this sentence: "If this is the first page, then our next page is the _________ page." 


Teacher Reflection 

  • Were students excited to work with their name?
  • Were students able to cut apart the letters of their name successfully?
  • Could each student glue their letters in the correct order to reproduce their name?
  • Were students able to count the letters in their name correctly?
  • Could each student complete their sentence by writing the correct number?
  • Were students able to put the class book in order using ordinal numbers?
  • Did the management of the supplies work well? If not, what would you change next time?
  • Do students enjoy revisiting the book in their free time?

Other Related Resources

  • Success Story
    Read about how this author got involved with writing lesson plans for NCTM Illuminations.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Represent numbers 1 to 10 verbally, in writing, and with manipulatives.
  • Use ordinal numbers to order their names according to the numbers of letters in them.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Count with understanding and recognize "how many" in sets of objects.
  • Develop a sense of whole numbers and represent and use them in flexible ways, including relating, composing, and decomposing numbers.
  • Develop understanding of the relative position and magnitude of whole numbers and of ordinal and cardinal numbers and their connections.

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

-Kindergarten, Counting & Cardinality

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.A.2
    Count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence (instead of having to begin at 1).

-Kindergarten, Counting & Cardinality

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.A.3
    Write numbers from 0 to 20. Represent a number of objects with a written numeral 0-20 (with 0 representing a count of no objects).

-Kindergarten, Counting & Cardinality

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.C.7
    Compare two numbers between 1 and 10 presented as written numerals.

Grade 1, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.NBT.B.3
    Compare two two-digit numbers based on meanings of the tens and ones digits, recording the results of comparisons with the symbols >, =, and <.

Grade 2, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.A.3
    Read and write numbers to 1000 using base-ten numerals, number names, and expanded form.

Grade 2, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.A.4
    Compare two three-digit numbers based on meanings of the hundreds, tens, and ones digits, using >, =, and < symbols to record the results of comparisons.

Common Core State Standards – Practice

  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP1
    Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP4
    Model with mathematics.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP5
    Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP7
    Look for and make use of structure.