# Numbers  at  School

All Classroom Lessons

### 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.)

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.)

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.)

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

“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?”

“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.

“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.