In this lesson, children will use the number of letters that they have in their names to count and graph and then compare and contrast.

Lesson for:

(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:

Data Analysis and Probability
Numbers and Operations

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers and number systems
  • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems and processes of measurement
  • Select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Identifyng 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)
  • Comparing two numbers between one and 10 presented as written numerals
  • Directly comparing two objects with a measureable attribute (letters in a name) in common to see which object has “more of” or “less of” the attribute and describing the difference
  • Formulating questions that can be addressed with data and collecting, organizing and displaying relevant data to answer these questions


Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • The book, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
  • Index cards, 5 x 8
  • Markers
  • Easel
  • Large chart graphing paper to record collected data

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Explain that you and the children are going to read a story together about a little mouse that has a very unique name. Explain that each of us has a special name and that they are going to use their names to solve some math problems.
  2. Ask the children about their names: “What is special about your name? Is there someone else in your family that has the same name that you do? Can you tell us anything about your name?”
  3. Explain that the one thing that all of our names have in common is that all of our names are composed of a certain number of letters. For example, say: “My name is Stephanie and I have nine letters in my name. S-t-e-p-h-a-n-i-e.” While you spell out your name, hold up a finger to represent each of the letters of your name so that, when you are finished spelling out your name, you are holding up the correct number of fingers.
  4. Distribute one index card to each child. Ask the children to print their names on the cards. Some children might need help with the spelling of their names or with the formation of the letters in their names. For younger children, you can pre-print the children’s names on the index cards and then ask the children to look at their names on the card.
  5. Ask the children what they notice about their names. You are looking for quantitative answers such as: “I have three letter S’s in my name” or “My name has four letters.” Later, we will analyze the data provided by the letters in each of the children’s names.
  6. Introduce the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. Explain that, together, you will read a book about a little mouse with a big name. Her name is Chrysanthemum and she loved her name until she started school. There are many themes embedded in this book, and one of most obvious is about bullying and respect. There are many cross-curricular teaching opportunities but, for the sake of our math focus, try to keep the children’s focus on the length of the children’s names. Ask: “Have you noticed that the name Chrysanthemum has A LOT of letters?” and “I wonder if it was difficult to learn how to spell Chrysanthemum?”
  7. Read the book. Pause when you come to this part of this book: “Chrysanthemum loved the way her name looked when it was written with ink on an envelope. She loved the way it looked when it was written with icing on her birthday cake.” Ask: “Let’s see just how many letters Chrysanthemum has in her name. Can anyone make a guess before we start to count?” As you count the letters, point to each letter, reinforcing one-to-one correspondence. Say: “Wow! Thirteen letters in her name.” Ask: “Do any of you have 13 letters in your name? Can anyone think of a name that also has 13 letters?”

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Explain to the children that they will now investigate their own names. Say: “Everyone look at your names.” Ask: “How many letters does your name have?” Ask the children to write the number of letters on the backs of their index cards, so that their names are on one side of the card and the numbers are on the other.
  2. Categorize the children into groups, according to the number of letters in their names. Say: “Everyone who has two letters in their name, please stand up and sit in a group over here.” Continue until all of the children are in a group. There may be only one child in a group and you may not have any children for certain numbers (for example, you may not have any children who have 5 letters in their name).
  3. Chart their names. On the graph paper on your easel (this activity also makes a cute bulletin board), graph the children’s names according to the letters in their names. Title the graph, Our Name Graph. Along the bottom of the chart, write the numbers, going from 0 to the largest number in your class. Then, have the children come up as you call the numbers and glue their name going up the side. Say: “All of you who have two letters in your name, please come up with your index cards and place your cards in the space next to the number two.” Continue this until all of the children’s named index cards have been added to the graph.
  4. Compare and examine the collected data. Look at the graph and ask questions that use the following vocabulary: the most, more than, less than, the least, the same. For example, ask: “Whose name has the most letters? Does David have more or less letters than Amy? Which names have the same amount of letters?”
  5. Extend the activity by identifying, counting and sorting by letters. For example, you can count the numbers of vowels or syllables in each child’s name. Again, all of this data can be recorded and displayed in the classroom. This is an activity that you can build on as the children’s skills increase. It also ties into many other subject areas.

Additional Extensions

  • Once the children are able to identify vowels within their alphabet, they can count, compare and record the number of vowels in each child’s name.
  • This activity is a wonderful introduction to syllabication. You can have the children clap out the number of syllables in their names and, again, compare and record.
  • This can also be a special home project. Children can interview their parents, siblings and other relatives to get the correct spelling of their names and then, together, they can count the number of letters in each family member’s name. The children can bring this information back to school and use it to construct a family tree, organizing their family members in numerical order according to the number of letters in their names.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • More: A value that is higher or greater in number (e.g.,”Sally has more letters in her name than Ted, Jane and Amy.”)
  • Fewer: A value that is smaller in number (e.g.,”Ed has fewer letters in his name than Sally.”)
  • Greatest amount: Largest amount; the one with the most (e.g.,”Chrysanthemum has the greatest amount of letters in her name.”)
  • Equal: To be the same in number or amount (e.g.,”Jane and Noah have an equal amount of letters in their names.”)
  • Numeral: The symbol used to represent a number of “how many” (e.g.,”The numeral “5” represents how many letters there are in Brian’s name.”)
  • Data: Information that we collect (e.g.,”The number of letters in our names is an example of data.”)
  • Graph: The tool that we use to display our data, so that everyone can see it and understand it

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not know how to spell out their own names
  • Not have one-to-one correspondence
  • Not be able to recognize all their numbers or letters
Child care providers may:
  • Provide assistance when children are counting the letters in their names
  • Write the number of letters that are in a child’s name on the back of the child’s index card
  • Help the children read and recognize the letters in their names
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Be able to identify vowels in the alphabet
  • Be able to identify syllables within words
  • Have a working knowledge of letters and how to form their letters
  • May be able to use invented spelling to write the names of family members and friends
Child care providers may:
  • Provide opportunities for the children to sort and count the letters in their names, based on vowels and consonants
  • Help the children identify the syllabication patterns in their names by clapping out the beats in their names and allowing the children to notice that each beat is a syllable
  • Help the children count the syllables in their names, as well as the syllables in the names of objects in their environment

Suggested Books

  • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 2007)
  • Crisantemo by Kevin Henkes (Everest De Ediciones Y Distribucion, 2008 [Spanish version of the book])

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

This activity can be taken to an outdoor location with a variety of flowers.

  • Looking at several different types of flowers, children can count the petals of the flowers and graph that data. For example: A rose has 16 petals, a daisy has 10 petals, etc. Compare and contrast the flowers, using the recorded data.
  • Children can also sort flowers according to color and then graph that information. For example: There are four yellow flowers and seven red flowers, etc. Compare and contrast the flowers, using the recorded data.

Web Resources

Comment on this lesson