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Sorting Foods

Number and OperationsAlgebra
Grace M. Burton
Location: unknown

Students sort foods using the categories of the Food Pyramid. They also create sets up to 10 and write numerals up to 10. Finally, students use an Internet-based tool to apply their knowledge of the Food Pyramid. This lesson makes a natural connection to the science of nutrition.

Before you begin this unit, you may wish to create a class library of student books relating to food. Suggestions for such books appear in the Bibliography of Books About Food for this unit.

pdficonAppendix: Bibliography of Books About Food 

Before this lesson, perhaps as part of a science lesson or a center, provide scissors and magazines and ask the students to cut out pictures of all kinds of food.

Hold up one picture of food that the students have cut out, and ask them to identify it. Then display a copy of the Food Pyramid on the overhead projector or on a poster. (A simple internet image search should produce many options, such as the following.)

376 food pyramid

Ask for volunteers to name each section of the pyramid and tell some foods that would go in each section. Now ask them to look again at the picture that you are holding and place it in the proper section of the pyramid. Repeat with several other pictures of food. Ask whether any sections are still empty. If so, encourage the students to name items that could be placed in the missing categories. This is an excellent time to encourage the students to list foods particular to their cultures (tortillas, fry bread, pita bread, and matzo, for example) in the various sections of the Food Pyramid.

Invite the students to focus on the section of the pyramid that holds the fruit group. Ask them to note how many servings from this group should be eaten every day. If necessary, explain that two to four servings means that from two to four servings should be eaten each day.

Now distribute the 10 Strips Activity Sheet to each student.

pdficon10 Strips Activity Sheet 

Have the students draw one fruit in each of two to four spaces, then record how many pieces of fruit they drew. Call on various students to describe what they drew on their recording strips.

Repeat with recording three to five vegetables on the same strip. Then ask how many sections on the 10 strip have been filled. Encourage those who can to record this using an additional sentence.

Now repeat the activity using other sections of the food pyramid and suggesting a different number, up to 10, of the foods to be eaten. Continue to encourage the students to share their drawings.

387 apple 387 apple 387 orange 387 banana         

To conclude the lesson, gather groups of students around the computer and introduce them to a food group detective games. A simple internet search of "free food group detective game," should produce viable options.

As they play, they will be asked to discover foods from various categories of the food pyramid. Play a demonstration round of the game with the groups, then tell the students that this activity will be a choice during math center or free time. Bookmark the game on the computer that the students will use, and show them how to use the bookmark to easily access the site.

Assessment Options 

  1. To help you focus on individual accomplishments, a recording form, Class Notes, is provided. You may find your records useful when discussing students' progress toward learning targets with parents, administrators, colleagues, and the students themselves. These notes also provide documentation for mandated individual education plans. Because the knowledge and skills in this lesson are essential to other lessons in this unit, the students who have not met these objectives should receive additional instruction before proceeding with the rest of the lessons in this unit.
  2. As a first entry for their unit portfolio, you may wish to ask the students to select one way that they recorded on a 10 strip. If it is appropriate for the students, ask them to label the 10 strip with the name of the food group.


Move on to the next lesson, Sorting Foods.

Questions for Students 

  1. Can you find two foods that belong to the same section of the Food Pyramid? How are they alike? How are they different?
  2. Look at these pictures of food. In what section of the Food Pyramid would they be placed? What else could go in that section? How did you know where to place a picture of __________________ (name of food)?
  3. Choose two to four pieces of fruit and three to five vegetables that you might eat today. If you recorded them on a 10 strip, how many would there be in all? How would you write that number?
  4. How many servings of the bread group are suggested? Of the dairy group? Which is more?
  5. How would you describe the Food Pyramid to a friend?

Teacher Reflection 

  • Were all the students able to write the numerals up to 10? Were they able to make sets that corresponded to each numeral?
  • Were all the students able to locate the sections of the food pyramid appropriate for the given foods?
  • Which students did not meet the objectives of this lesson? What instructional experiences do they need next?
  • Would I make any adjustments the next time that I teach this lesson?

Eating Patterns

Students sort pictures of food and create patterns. They also analyze a partner's patterns and extend those patterns.

Pyramid Power

In this lesson, students make sets of a given number, explore relationships between numbers, and write numbers that name how many elements are in a group. They make and record sets of one more and one less than a given number.
Number and Operations

Combining Foods

In this lesson, students explore addition and comparison subtraction by modeling and recording related addition and subtraction facts for a given number. Comparison subtraction is the focus of this lesson because later in the unit, the students will explore the idea of "how many more?" to complete a set. The students also investigate the commutative property and model fact families, including those in which one addend is zero and those in which the addends are alike.
Number and Operations

Try for Five

In this lesson, students explore the many ways to decompose numbers, and they build on their knowledge of addition and subtraction to find missing addends.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Classify pictures of food according to given attributes.
  • Identify the sections of the Food Pyramid.
  • Create a set that corresponds with a given number less than 10.
  • Count the elements in a set of fewer than 10 members and record the amount.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Connect number words and numerals to the quantities they represent, using various physical models and representations.
  • Count with understanding and recognize "how many" in sets of objects.
  • Sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties.

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.B.5
    Count to answer ''how many?'' questions about as many as 20 things arranged in a line, a rectangular array, or a circle, or as many as 10 things in a scattered configuration; given a number from 1-20, count out that many objects.

-Kindergarten, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.B.3
    Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count.

Common Core State Standards – Practice

  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP4
    Model with mathematics.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP5
    Use appropriate tools strategically.