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Finding Four

Number and Operations
Grace M. Burton
Location: unknown

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.

Teach the students the action song "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes." Ask, "How many different body parts do we touch when we sing, "Head, shoulders, knees, and toes"? [Four.] “How about when we name the parts of our faces?” [Four.] Sing the song a second time, and then ask, "Can you hold up four fingers?" [Check to see that all the students can do this.] Ask a volunteer to ring the bell four times. Repeat with other students.

Show the students the numeral 4, then ask them to count out four raisins from a bowl of raisins you have put on the desk. As you check to see each student has exactly four raisins, give each a stick of celery. Explain that they will make a snack called Ants on a Log. Ask them to sit at a table and put the celery stick in front of them on a clean piece of paper. Then go around the room placing a small amount of cottage cheese in the hollow of each celery stick. When you have filled all the celery sticks, have the students place the four raisins on top of the cottage cheese on the celery stick as if the raisins were ants on a log. Ask the students to count aloud as they do so. (If you prefer not to use food, replace the celery with a small rope of clay and the raisins with small balls of clay.)

488 ants

While the children enjoy eating their snack, show them the Electronic Abacus Tool.

appicon Electronic Abacus Tool 

Call on a volunteer to use the abacus to show a number from one to four [using only the top bar of the abacus], then ask his or her classmates what number is shown. Repeat with several other volunteers.

Now ask the students to look at the numeral 4, which you have displayed. Model how to make a 4 as you sing the numeral-writing song. Have volunteers write "4" in the sand tray.

Next, give each student a copy of the Numbers to 5 Activity Sheet and some counters.

pdficonNumbers to 5 Activity Sheet 

Ask them to put as many counters into the sections numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4 as the section number indicates.

488 numbers 

After they have finished, give the students their Show How Many Activity Sheet.

pdficonShow How Many Activity Sheet 

Ask them to look for the column with a "4" at the top, and then to color in four rows, starting at the bottom row. Circulate as they work. Encourage the students to compare the "4" row with the rows they have previously colored.

488 boxes 

Then collect the charts.

Assessment Option 

Your notes on the students' progress will be helpful as you plan ways to ensure that each student has developed a concept of the numbers to 5. You will find that brief daily review sessions will be helpful to those students who have not yet developed this concept. Be especially alert to those students who are unable to write the numerals even though they understand the quantities the numerals represent. Conceptual understanding and the ability to write numerals develop at different times and require different remediation strategies.


Move on to the next lesson, Here's a Handful.

Questions for Students 

1. What new number did we talk about today? Can you show me that many counters?

[Four; students should be able to hold up four fingers.]

2. Can you count to four? Can you ring the bell four times?

3. Show me a group of four and a group of three. Which group has more? How can you tell?

[The group of four has one more than the group of three.]

4.How can you change a group of three to a group of four? How can you change a group of four to a group of three?

[Add one more; take away one.]

5. When you count, what number comes after three? Before four?

[Four; three.]

6. How did you show four on your chart? How is that column like the column for 3? How is it different?

[There is one more square colored.]

7. Where on the chart is the number 4? Point to it. What other numbers are written on the chart?

Teacher Reflection 

  • Which students have learned the meaning of each of the numbers studied so far? What are the next appropriate goals for them?
  • Are there students still unable to count out up to four objects? What should I do at this time to help them reach this goal?
  • Which students are not yet able to count by rote to five? What experiences do they need next?
  • Which students are not yet able to count rationally to four? What experiences do they need next?
  • Which students were able to identify the numerals to four? Which can write all of them?
  • Which students were not yet able to write the numerals to 4? Which numerals are the most difficult for them?
  • Which students were able to compare sets of four with sets of other, different quantities? Which students were not yet able to do this? What learning activities should I plan for them?
  • 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

Three in a Set

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.
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

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 one, two, three, and four objects.
  • Identify and write the numerals 1 through 4.
  • Compare sets of four with sets of one, two, and three.
  • Record a group of four 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.

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.