Numbers 
at
 School


left arrow All Classroom Lessons

Group of kids playing together with their young nursery teacher.

A
 Lesson 
for 
Kindergartners

by 
Chris 
Confer

In 
this 
lesson, 
excerpted
 from
 Chris
 Confer’s 
new 
book
 Teaching
 Number 
Sense,
Kindergarten
 (Math
 Solutions
 Publications,
 2005),
 children 
learn 
that 
numbers 
are 
used
 for 
different
 purposes.
They
 search 
for
 numbers 
in
 their 
school, 
draw
 pictures
 of
 things 
that 
have 
numbers, discuss 
how 
numbers 
help
 people, as
 well
 as
 talk 
to
 adults
 in 
their 
building
 about
 how 
they 
use
 numbers.

“We’re 
going 
to 
take 
a 
walk
 today,”
 I
 told 
the 
children,
“and
 we’re
 going 
to 
look
 for 
numbers and 
think 
about
 how 
those
 numbers 
help 
people. 
Why 
are numbers 
important
 at 
school 
and 
in
 our
 homes?”

“I’ve
 got 
numbers 
at 
my 
house,”
 Ricardo said. 
“We’ve
 got
 a 
clock 
so 
my 
mom 
can 
be 
on 
time.”

“My 
mom 
uses 
numbers 
to
 cook,” 
Pradnya
 said.

“Does
 your
 mom 
use
 a 
measuring 
cup?”
 I 
asked.

Pradnya 
nodded.“It
 measures,”
 Rafael
 offered.
 “You
 can 
put 
flour 
or
 sugar 
in
 it
 so 
you
 know 
how 
much.”

“I
 wonder 
what 
numbers 
we
 have 
in
 our 
school,” 
I
 said
 to 
introduce 
the 
investigation.
“How
 does
 Ms. 
Martínez, the
 principal, use
 numbers?
 And
 I 
wonder 
how 
the 
nurse
 uses
 numbers.
 We’re 
going 
to 
take 
a 
walk 
around
 the
 school 
to 
look 
for 
numbers.
 When 
you 
see 
a
 number,
 think 
about
 why 
that
 number 
is 
there. 
And
 then 
I
 want
 you 
to 
sketch 
the 
thing 
that
 has 
the
 numbers 
and 
think 
about 
how 
those 
numbers 
help 
people.”

We
 lined 
up,
 and
 the 
students 
clutched
 blank
 paper
 on
 clipboards
 and
 pencils. 
As
 we
walked out
 the 
door, 
they 
immediately
 noticed 
the 
door
 number.
 They 
copied
 it
 down, 
and 
I 
reminded 
them 
that 
I
 wanted
 them 
to draw
 the 
whole 
door 
as
 well
 as 
its 
number.
 As 
we 
walked
 down
 the
 hall, 
they 
stopped 
by 
the 
fire
 extinguisher.

“I 
see 
numbers,”
Ana 
said.

We
 looked
 closely
 and
 saw 
that
 Ana
 was 
right;
 there
 were
 dates
 recording 
when 
the 
fire
 extinguisher
 was
 tested.

The 
children 
saw
 numbers 
all
 along 
the
 walls in 
classroom
 displays.
 Two 
children 
copied 
a
 chart
 of 
counting 
by 
tens, 
and 
another 
looked
 at
 a 
recipe 
for
 “Good‐Smelling 
Play‐Doh.”

I
 moved 
the
 children 
on
to 
the
 nurse’s
 office.
 “Do 
you 
have 
any 
numbers 
in 
here?”
 Marco
 asked. 
Ms.
Gonzales 
showed 
the 
students 
the
 electronic 
thermometer.
 She 
took
 Marco’s
 temperature
 and
 the
 children 
counted 
as 
the
 thermometer
 registered
 higher
 and 
higher
 numbers 
until
 it 
stopped 
at
 99.

The 
students 
then 
gathered
 around 
a
t all
 plastic 
device
 for
 measuring
 height. 
“It’s 
got
 a lot 
of
 numbers!” 
Lina
 exclaimed. 
Some 
children 
sketched 
it
 while
 others
 noticed 
the 
numbers
 on
 a
 chart 
for
 testing
 eye sight.
 Amanda, Gabriela,
 and 
Rafael 
gathered
 around
 the
 microwave 
to
 sketch 
it 
while 
explaining 
to
 each 
other
 what
 the 
numbers 
did.
(See 
Figure 
1.)

student drawing of an oven

Figure 1. Gabriela’s drawing showed the
numbers on the microwave and included
her explanation, “El horno es para calentar
la comida” (The microwave oven is for
heating food).

“I
 had
 no 
idea 
that
 we 
have 
so 
many 
numbers
 in 
here!” 
Ms.
Gonzales 
exclaimed.
We
 stopped 
in
 the 
cafeteria,
 where
 the 
kitchen
 helpers 
were
 cleaning 
up 
after
 lunch.
“What
 numbers 
do 
you 
have?”
asked 
Ana.

“We 
have 
to 
count
 just
 about 
everything 
in 
the 
kitchen, 
and
 we 
write 
the 
numbers 
on 
report
 forms,”
 Mrs. 
Miranda 
said.
“We
 count 
the 
trays
 before 
lunch
 and 
after 
lunch 
so 
we
can
 find
 out
 how 
many
 children 
ate 
today.
 We 
count 
the 
cartons 
of 
milk 
before 
breakfast 
and 
after
 breakfast
 for 
the 
same 
reason.
 Every
 Friday 
we
 count
 the 
forks
 and 
the
 spoons 
and
 compare
 the
 numbers 
with 
last
 Friday 
to 
see 
how
 many 
got 
lost. “The 
children
 nodded
 and
 began 
to
 sketch.
 (See 
Figure 
2.)

milk carton drawing

Figure 2. Amanda found a number 2 on
a carton of milk.

“Look 
at
 the 
dishwasher,” 
Mrs.
 Miranda 
said. 
“It
 says 
‘one
 hundred
 fifty.’
 Why
 do
 you
 think
 that
 number 
is 
there?”

“It 
tells 
how
 many 
trays
 are 
in 
it?” 
Ana
 asked.

“Actually,
 it
 tells 
how hot 
the 
water
 is 
as 
the 
dishes 
are 
being
 washed,” 
Mrs. 
Miranda answered.
 “It
 has 
to 
get 
to 
one
 hundred
 and 
fifty
 degrees 
during
 the
 wash 
cycle 
and 
one
 hundred 
and 
seventy 
degrees
 during 
the 
rinse.
 That’s
 how 
the 
germs 
are 
killed
 so
 you 
don’t
 get
 sick.”

“The 
lunch 
lady
 asks 
us 
our
 number 
when we
 come 
to 
eat,”
 Verena
 reminded 
Mrs.
 Miranda.

“That’s 
right,” 
Mrs.
 Miranda 
answered.
 Verena was 
referring 
to 
the
 number
 assigned 
to
children
 who 
qualify 
for 
free 
or
 reduced‐cost
 lunch;
 the 
cashier 
circles 
the number
 when 
a
 child 
goes 
through 
the 
check out
line.
 Nearly 
all 
the 
students 
at
 my
 school
 qualify 
for
 the 
lunch
 program,
 so 
Mrs.
 Miranda’s
 list
 has
 about 
three 
hundred
 numbers 
on 
it. 
(See
 Figure
 3.)

list of numbers

Figure 3. Andrés copied the list of numbers
that are assigned to students in the free lunch program.

“Let’s
 look 
at 
my 
list
 of
 numbers,”
 suggested 
Mrs.
 Miranda. 
“Why
 do
 you 
think 
we 
ask
 you
 your 
number 
instead
 of
 your 
name?” 
she
 asked.

“’Cause 
it’s 
fast?” 
Marisa 
asked.

“Right,”
 Mrs. Miranda
 said.
 “And
 after 
lunch
 we 
count 
the 
numbers.
 Look 
how 
we 
circle 
the
 groups 
of
ten.
Then
 we
 count
 ten,
 twenty,
 thirty, 
forty, 
fifty, 
and
 so
 on 
until
 we
 find
 out
how
 many
 children
 ate 
today. 
That
 number has
 to
 match
 the 
number
 of
 trays.”

The 
children 
noticed 
the
 numbers 
that 
showed
 the 
price 
of 
the 
lunches. 
Mrs.
 Miranda
 then
 showed 
them 
the 
long 
cash‐register
 tape 
that
 showed 
all 
the 
lunches 
that 
were
 bought
 that
 day.

“The 
next 
thing 
Ms.
 Hanson 
and 
I
 do
 is
 count
 all
 the 
money.
 The 
money 
has
 to 
match
 this
 number 
at 
the 
bottom,” 
Mrs.
 Miranda
 explained.

Ms. 
Hanson
 joined 
us
 then.
“ How 
many
 of 
you 
ate 
pizza 
pockets
 today?”
 she
 asked.
 Eleven
 children
 raised their 
hands.

“And
 how 
many 
of
 you
 ate 
tacos?”
 The
 others’ 
hands
 went
 up.

“This 
morning,” 
Ms.
 Hanson
 explained, 
“I
 used
 your
 lunch
 counts 
to 
figure 
out 
how 
many 
we’d
 need 
for 
the
 whole
 school, 
and
 I 
had
 to
 count 
how
 many 
pizza 
pockets 
to 
make
 and
 how
 many
 tacos.”

When 
we 
returned 
to 
our
 classroom
 after 
the
 twenty‐minute 
walk, 
the 
children
 gathered 
on
 the 
rug
 with
 their 
drawings.

“What
 did 
you 
discover?”
 I 
asked 
them. 
“As 
you 
tell
 us 
how
 people 
at 
our
 school
 use 
numbers,
 I’ll
 write 
down 
what 
you 
say. 
Later
 we’ll
 put
 the 
chart
 in
 the 
hall
 to
 share our
 discoveries 
with
 everyone 
else.”

“There’s 
numbers 
on 
all
 the
 doors,” 
Pradnya 
said.

I
 recorded
 her observation
 and
 then 
inquired, 
“Why
 are 
they
 there?”

“So 
your 
mom 
knows
 which 
is 
your
 room,” 
answered 
Robert.

“The
 calendar
 number
 says
 the 
day,” 
Ana
 said.

“That’s 
true,” 
I
 answered 
as
 I
 wrote
 her
 words on
 the 
chart.

“The 
nurse 
uses 
that
 tall
 thing 
to
 tell
 you 
how 
big
 you 
are,”
 Graciela
 contributed.

“What
 other 
things 
does 
the
 nurse 
measure?” 
I
 asked.

“How 
much 
we
 weigh,” 
Marisa
 said.

“And
 our 
temperature,” 
Ana 
added.

“Do
 they 
use 
numbers
 to 
measure 
things 
in 
the
 cafeteria?”
 I 
inquired.

The 
children 
chattered 
about
 all 
the 
measuring 
they 
had
 seen 
in 
the
 lunchroom.

We 
continued 
discussing 
while 
I
 wrote 
their
 observations
 on
 the 
chart.
 When
 we
 were 
 finished,
 we
 reread 
the
 chart 
together:



Numbers 
in
 Our 
School


The 
doors
 have
 numbers.

The 
calendar 
number
 says 
the 
day.

The
 nurse 
measures 
how 
tall 
we 
are 
and 
how 
much 
we
 weigh.

Marco’s
 temperature 
is
 99
 degrees.

We 
tell
 Mrs.
 Miranda 
our 
lunch
 numbers.

The 
lunch 
ladies
 count
 the 
trays 
and
 the
 milk
 cartons.

The 
dishwasher 
has
 150 
on 
it.

We
 saw 
the 
lunch
 price.

They 
count
 the
 tacos.

“You
 made 
some
 wonderful 
drawings
 of
 all
 the 
things
 that
 we 
found 
that
 have numbers,”
I 
said.
 “Would
 you 
mind 
contributing
 some 
of
 your 
illustrations 
to 
our
 chart?”

Children 
volunteered 
to 
add 
their
 pictures
 to 
illustrate 
various
 observations 
and 
went 
to
 get
 scissors
 and
 glue
sticks.
 Soon 
the
 chart
 was 
ready.

Then 
we
re read
 our
 words 
and
 admired
 our 
illustrations. 
Before 
I 
taped 
the 
chart 
to 
the 
 hallway
 wall,
 I
 said,
 “It 
will 
be 
nice 
for 
Mrs.
 Miranda 
and 
Ms.
 Gonzales 
to 
see
 all
 that 
we learned
 from 
them. 
And 
maybe 
the 
other
 children
 at
 school
 will 
start
 noticing 
numbers,
 too.”
 It
 was 
clear
 that
 the
 students 
had a 
new 
awareness
 of 
the 
importance
 of
 numbers 
in 
the 
world
 around 
them.

 

From 
Online
 Newsletter 
Issue
 Number
 19,
 Fall 
2005

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