Monday, June 15, 2015

Preschool Math Lesson: Caterpillar Cut-out Number Sense Activity

I saw this fabulously and fun number sense activity over on F is for First Grade and decided to create my own version :-)

I found all the materials I needed in our school supplies:
  • Caterpillar cutouts
  • Stickers
  • Sharpie
  • Scissors
I started with the caterpillar cutout and cut it into four pieces: the head, the belly, the back, and the tail. 

On each piece, I wrote a corresponding number representation for each of the numbers 1-6. For example, on the head of one caterpillar, I wrote the number 5; on the belly, I had my son place five stickers; on the back, I wrote a simple expression that totals five (2+3); and on the tail, I wrote five tally marks. Then, to make putting them back together a little easier, I separated the six cut-up caterpillars into categories:

As my son put the pieces together, I gave him the freedom to choose in what order he would work. Because he's my son, he went in ascending order from 1 - 6 :-) 

He even had a little helper...

I walked him through the steps for the first couple of numbers, asking him to start with the head, then move to the body, then the back, and finally the "tally-mark tail" :-) He was pretty quick to find each piece, but he did spend a little time on the addition expressions. 

By the way, in keeping with my love of the Depth & Complexity Icons, I try to use the correct verbiage and terminology as often as possible (Language of the Discipline), so when we got to the addition problems, I pointed out that these are expressions, not equations, because there is no equation symbol :-)

Here is a video of my son walking us through the process of putting together his #4 caterpillar:

Once he put all six caterpillars together, we reviewed each representation, increasing his number sense for the numbers 1 - 6. After he practices with these cut-outs a few more times, I will make new ones with the numbers 7 - 12.

If you are interested in learning more about the Depth & Complexity Icons, keep an eye out on my blog because I will be posting an eBook on combining this approach with the updated Bloom's Taxonomy levels. It's been a fascinating journey; one that I can't wait to share :-)


  1. I love this, and even though I don't teach math, I can't help but think about the parallels to writing. We learn to put the pieces together as we compose, too. I just gave my 30-year-old son an adult coloring book (The Enchanted Forest). As he perused it, he discovered that it asks the user to unlock a secret code and to find images that help one unlock the code throughout the book. Seems we're all putting the pieces together throughout our lives.

    1. I love the connection you make to writing, Glenda, because that is one of my passions! I am always looking for ways to nurture my son's love for writing :-) I will have to look into the Enchanted Forest coloring book because I also love to color!

  2. Where did you find those caterpillars? We are using these in EMT class and trying to locate more. These are the exact ones we need.