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How Many Buttons?

Number and Operations
Grace M. Burton
Location: unknown

In this lesson, students review classification, make sets of a given number, explore relationships between numbers, and find numbers that are one more and one less than a given number. They apply their knowledge of classification as they play a game similar to bingo.

Distribute bags of buttons to each student, and ask each to hold one button. Now read the story “The Lost Button” (From Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel, HarperCollins, 1970) to the students. If you do not have the book, a quick internet search will provide free videos that read the story out loud. 

After the first description of the lost button is given, ask the students whether the button they chose could be the lost button. If it is possible, have them stand. Ask the same question as you come to each attribute. If a description does not fit the button they are holding, they should sit down.

When the story is completed, have the students who are standing verify that their button has all the attributes. Have the rest of the class look through their set of buttons for those that have all the attributes.

(If you don’t have access to the story, here’s an alternative way to begin the lesson: Have the students each pick a button. Now choose several attributes that might describe a button and write them on different index cards. Pull one of the cards at random, read the attribute, and ask these students who have buttons with that attribute to stand. Then call out, one at a time, the other attributes listed on the index cards you choose, having students remain standing if their button continues to have all the attributes. When you have named several attributes, ask the students to locate all the buttons that meet all the chosen attributes.)

Next display a numeral less than 10 and ask the students to make a set with that many buttons. When they are ready, ask the students to trace the buttons in the set, count them aloud, and then write the number of buttons in the set under the tracing. Then call on a volunteer to choose another number less than 10 and ask the other students to make sets with that many buttons. Repeat several times. As each set is constructed, have students count the buttons in their set and record the appropriate numeral. You may wish to have the students place these recording sheets in their unit portfolios.

286 Eight buttons
Eight buttons

Next put the students into trios and distribute two number cubes to each trio. Show the students index cards on which you have written “=,” “One More, or One Less,” Review (or teach) the meaning of the phrases and of the equals symbol (in this case, the equals symbol shows that two sets have the same number of objects). Then give each student in the trio a different card.
Ask the student who received the card with the equals sign to roll one number cube, name the number showing, and make a set of that many buttons. Then have the other students make sets of one more or one less as their cards direct. When they have done so, call on various groups to describe what they did. Have the students switch cards within their trio and repeat this activity several times.

pdficonButton Bingo Grids 

To end the lesson, have students return to their seats. Then ask them to describe their buttons in as many ways as they can. Write each attribute they call out so that the entire class can see it. Then pass out the Button Bingo Grids and ask the students to write one attribute at the top of each column on their grid. [The attributes “white,” “big,” “2 holes,” “black,” and “metal” are entered on this sample card. You may wish to have students replace them with attributes relevant to the buttons in your room.]

To start, you will be the caller. When the students are ready, hold up a button and ask them to find one button from their set of buttons that matches your button in at least one way. Have them place that button in an appropriate column on their Button Bingo grid. The first student to fill a column wins the round and becomes the caller for the next round. If more than one child finishes a column at the same time, have them roll two number cubes to determine who the next caller will be. [You might designate the child with the highest number or the one with the lowest number as the winner of the roll.]

  • Book, “The Lost Button” (From Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel, HarperCollins, 1970), or computer with internet connection  
  • Buttons  
  • Crayons  
  • Number cubes  
  • Index cards  
  • Button Bingo Grid Activity Sheet 

Assessment  Option 

At this stage of the unit, it is important for students to know how to:

  • identify objects based on given attributes
  • create a set that corresponds to a given number less than 10
  • count the elements in a set up to 10 members
  • write the number of elements in a set with up to 10 members
  • create sets of one more and one less than a given number to 10

Students who have not met these objectives should receive additional instruction before proceeding with Lesson 4–8, because understanding of addition and subtraction is dependent upon mastery of rational counting.


Move on to the next lesson, More and More Buttons.

Questions for Students 

  1. How many of your buttons are blue? How many are big? How many have four holes?  
  2. What number words did we use that help us describe how many we have of something?  
  3. What words did we use that help us tell about the order of objects?  
  4. Make a set with nine buttons or less. How many buttons would be in a set with one more? With one less? (Repeat with other numbers.)  
  5. Here is a set of buttons. Write how many are in the set. Then write how many will be in a set with one more. Then with one less.  
  6. What number comes after 6? After 9? Write those numbers.  
  7. What number comes before 4? Before 7? Write those numbers.  
  8. What number comes before 1? After 1? Write those numbers.  
  9. How many buttons will there be in a set of one less than six buttons?    

Teacher Reflection 

  • Were all students able to identify buttons when given a specific attribute?
  • Which cardinal (counting) number words were students familiar with when the lesson began?
  • Were all students able to recognize the numerals to 10? If not, which numerals caused them trouble?
  • Were they able to make sets that corresponded to each numeral?
  • Could they write all the numerals to 10? If not, which were they not able to write?
  • Were all the students able to make sets of one more and one less for each numeral to 10?
  • Which students met all the objectives of this lesson? What extension activities would be appropriate for those students?
  • 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?
ButtonTrains ICON
Number and Operations

Button Trains

In this lesson, students describe order by using vocabulary such as before, after, and between. They also review and use both cardinal and ordinal numbers.
Number and Operations

Many Sets of Buttons

Students classify buttons and make disjoint and overlapping Venn diagrams. In an extension, they make and record linear patterns.
MoreAndMoreButtons ICON
Number and Operations

More and More Buttons

Students use buttons to create, model, and record addition sentences. They also explore commutativity in addition contexts.
NumbersManyWays ICON
Number and Operations

Numbers Many Ways

Students work with subtraction at the intuitive level as they explore number families and ways to decompose numbers to 10. They will also identify members of fact families. (A fact family is a set of three [or two] numbers that can be related by addition and subtraction, for example: 7 = 4 + 3, 7 = 3 + 4, 7 - 4 = 3, and 7 - 3 = 4. When the number is a double, there are only two members of the fact family. An example would be 10 - 5 = 5, and 5 + 5 = 10.)
LostButtons ICON
Number and Operations

Lost Buttons

In this lesson and the following one, students investigate subtraction more directly, beginning with the easier “take away” mode. They model “take away” subtraction with buttons and write subtraction sentences. They also work with the additive identity (0) as an addend and as a difference and find missing addends.
Number and Operations

Shirts Full of Buttons

Students explore subtraction in the comparative mode by answering questions of “How many more?” and “How many less?” as they match sets of buttons. They also make and discuss bar graphs based on the number of buttons they are wearing.
Number and Operations

Looking Back and Moving Forward

This final lesson of the unit reviews the work of the previous lessons through a variety of activity stations, one of which involves using an interactive graphing tool. Students model with buttons and record addition and subtraction.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Identify objects that have a given attributes.
  • Create a set that corresponds to a given number less than 10.
  • Count the elements in a set of up to 10 members.
  • Write the number of elements in a set with up to 10 members.
  • Create sets of one more and one less than a given number to 10.

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
  • Develop and use strategies for whole-number computations, with a focus on addition and subtraction.
  • Use a variety of methods and tools to compute, including objects, mental computation, estimation, paper and pencil, and calculators.

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.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.

Grade 1, Geometry

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.G.A.1
    Distinguish between defining attributes (e.g., triangles are closed and three-sided) versus non-defining attributes (e.g., color, orientation, overall size) ; build and draw shapes to possess defining attributes.

Common Core State Standards – Practice

  • 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.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP8
    Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.