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Three in a Set

Number and Operations
Grace M. Burton
Location: unknown

In this lesson, students construct sets of three, compare them with sets of two, and write the numeral 3. They also show a set of three on their recording chart.

Begin the lesson by having the students march around the room, lifting their knees high and counting "One, two" as they take each step. Then have them assemble on the carpet and lead them in singing, "Catching a Fish," the song they sang in the previous lesson.

Next, teach the students the nursery rhyme "Hippity Hop." Ask the students how many sticks of candy will be bought. [Three] Then call three students to act out the rhyme by hopping to a desk, miming buying sticks of candy [let crayons take the place of the sticks of candy], and hopping "home." You may wish to use the students' names in the rhyme [for example, one for Maggie, one for P. D., and one for sister Tracy]. Repeat with other sets of three students.

Call the students to a central place, seat them in pairs, and show them the numeral 3. (Use the Numeral Cards.)

pdficonNumeral Cards

Say, "Raise three fingers." When all have done so, ask the students to count their partner's fingers. Ask, "How many fingers is your friend holding up?" Prompt the students to answer "Three." Now display a large set of counters, such as beans, and ask the students to take out three beans. Model this by picking up three beans or other counters as you say "One, two, three."

When all the students have done so, ask them to count aloud the beans they are holding. Then ask," How many beans are you holding?" Encourage the students to answer "Three." Now drop your three beans one at a time into a metal bowl, counting "One, two, three" as you do. Then have volunteers drop their counters into the bowl, saying "One, two, three" as they drop them. Encourage the class to count along as the beans fall into the bowl.

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Now ask the students to look at the numeral 3, which you have displayed. Tell them that this figure means "three." Turn your back to the students and trace the figure in the air, and then encourage them to do it with you. You may wish to put words to the actions you use to make the numeral 3. [Halfway round and halfway round, repeated three times to the tune of "All Around the Mulberry Bush," ending with "To make the number 3."] Now have volunteers write "3" in the sand tray. Remind all the students to go to the numeral-writing station during the day to write "3" in the sand.

Give each pair of students an egg carton or muffin tin and some counters. Ask them to take turns dropping three counters into each cup, counting "One, two, three" as they do so. Then have them empty the cups, one at a time, by counting the beans out.

Next, give the students their copies of the Show How Many Activity Sheet.

pdficon Show How Many Activity Sheet

Ask them to look for the column with a "3" at the top, and then to color in three rows, starting at the bottom row. Demonstrate this, and circulate as they work. Invite the students to compare the rows for 2 and 3.

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Then collect the charts or tell the students to put the chart where it will be available for future lessons.

Assessment Options

  1. The Questions for Students will help the students focus on the mathematics in this lesson. They will also help you assess the students' level of knowledge and skill.
  2. What you discover about the students' understanding and skills can be documented on the Class Notes recording sheet. You may find this information useful when discussing the students' progress toward learning targets with parents, administrators, colleagues, and the students themselves.
Move on to the next lesson, One, Two, Three-- Go!

Questions for Students
1. What numbers did we talk about today? Can you show me that many fingers?

[Two, three; students should be able to hold up two or three fingers.]

2. Can you count to that number? What number did you say first? Next? Next?

[One, Two, Three.]

3. Show three fingers. How can you tell that you and your partner are showing the same number of fingers?

4. Show me a group of two and a group of three. Which group has more? How can you tell? (Encourage the students to line up the two groups, and then match the objects in the groups.)

5. How can you change a group of two to a group of three? How can you change a group of three to a group of two?

[Yes, by adding one more; yes, by taking away one.]

6. When you count, what number comes after two? How can you write a "3"?

7. How did you show the number 3 on your chart? What did you notice on the chart about the way you recorded the number 2 and the way you recorded the number 3?

8. Where on the chart was the number 3? Can you point to the number as you say it?

9. Listen as I ring this bell (or tap this drum or hit this triangle). How many sounds did you hear?


10. Can you find the number 3 in the room? Can you find the number 2? Where?

[Possible answers include on the clock, on the board, or on my paper.]

Teacher Reflection 

  • Which students demonstrated they could count by rote to five by singing "Catching a Fish?" What experiences do they need next?
  • Which students could not yet count by rote to five? What experiences are necessary for those students?
  • Which students were able to count rationally to three?
  • Which students were able to identify the numeral 3? Which students could write it? Which students were not yet able to write and identify the numeral 3? What instructional experiences do they need next?
  • Which students were able to compare a set of two with a set of three? Which students were not yet able to do this? What learning activities should I plan for them?
  • What students would profit from additional instruction from adult volunteers?
  • What adjustments will I make the next time that I teach this lesson?
Number and Operations

Focus on Two

A nursery rhyme provides a context for using the number 2. Students make groups of two, write the numeral 2, and record a group of two on a personal recording chart.
Number and Operations

One, Two, Three--Go

After reviewing the numbers 2 and 3, students construct and identify sets of one. They compare sets of one, two, and three objects and record a set of three in chart form.
Number and Operations

Finding Four

Students explore the number 4. They make sets of four, write the numeral 4, and compare sets of four to sets of one, two, and three.
Number and Operations

Here's a Handful

Students construct sets of up to five items, write the numeral 5, identify sets of five, and record "5" on a chart. They also play a game that requires recognizing the numerals to 5. This lesson provides opportunities for connecting mathematics with music.
Number and Operations

Zero Our Hero

Students explore sets of zero items and practice writing the numbers 0 through 5. Students count back from five, identify sets of up to five items, and record "0" on a chart. They also construct sets of up to five items.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Construct groups of three objects.
  • identify and write the numeral 3.
  • Compare sets of size 2 and sets of size 3.
  • Record a group of size 3 on a graph.

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.
  • Use multiple models to develop initial understandings of place value and the base-ten number system

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

-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.6
    Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies.

-Kindergarten, Counting & Cardinality

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

-Kindergarten, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.3
    Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).

-Kindergarten, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.4
    For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation.

-Kindergarten, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.NBT.A.1
    Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 18 = 10 + 8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.

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