Dots of Fun

In this lesson, children will explore the concept of addition by counting the dots on a domino.

Lesson for:

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

Content Area:

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 meanings of operations and how they relate to one another
  • Use mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships

Learning Targets:

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

  • Counting how many
  • Adding two numbers
  • Comparing numbers

Dots of Fun

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • The book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews
  • Jumbo foam dominoes (or other dominoes)
  • Optional items:
    • Flashcards for numerals 0-12
    • Flashcards with + sign and = sign
    • Paper and pencil for creating personal dominoes or writing addition sentences

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. Read Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews to the children. This book will show the children different things that can be made with black dots and different ways that black dots can be counted.
  2. Count all of the dots on the domino.
  3. Explain that, on each domino, there are three different amounts of dots.
  4. To demonstrate this, count the dots on the left side of the domino. Next, count the dots on the right side of the domino. (Depending on the children’s current skills, you might ask them to match the number of dots to a numeral either by writing the numeral or by finding a flash card with the matching numeral.)
  5. Explain that the third amount is the TOTAL number of dots. To demonstrate this, count all of the dots together.
  6. Say: “When you put the dots together and find the total number of dots, you are ADDING.”
  7. Repeat steps two through six, using other dominoes from the kit.
  8. Say: “Now you are going to use your own dominoes to practice addition.”

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Tell the children that they will each get a domino and count how many dots are on their dominoes.
  2. Hand out one domino to each child.
  3. Ask the children to count the number of dots on the left side of the domino. Then ask: “How many dots are on the right side of the domino?” Then ask: “How many dots are there all together?” Each child should answer individually while you check and correct any counting errors.
  4. Give each child another domino and repeat step three.
  5. Ask:
    • “Do both of the dominoes have the same number of dots?”
    • “Which domino has the fewest dots?”
    • “Which domino has the most dots?”
    • “Can you find someone in the circle who has a domino with the same number of dots as one of your dominoes?”

Additional Extensions

  • Ask the children to match the flash card numerals to each side of their dominoes and then also match the flash card that represents the total number.
  • Ask the children to create addition sentences for their dominoes, either by using flash cards with numerals and + and = symbols or by writing the sentences on paper.
  • Engage the children in a version of the game “War” using the dominoes. Divide the dominoes among the children. Place the dominoes facing down. Ask the children to turn one of their dominoes over and count the dots. The child with the highest or lowest number of dots wins and takes the dominoes.
  • Children can create their own dominoes by using black paper, cotton balls and glue. Fold the paper in half, glue cotton balls on each side and write the addition sentence on the paper.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • More: Greater in number or size (e.g., “Seven dots is more than five dots.”)
  • Fewer/Less: Smaller in number (e.g.,”The side with five dots has fewer dots than the side with six dots.”)
  • Same: Identical in kind or quantity (e.g.,”The side with six dots is the same as the other side with six dots.”)
  • Total: The complete amount of items counted (e.g.,”What is the total number of dots on the domino?”)
  • Numeral: The symbol used to represent a number or “how many” (e.g.,”The numeral ‘2’ represents the number of eyes that I have.”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not know or identify the left and right side
  • Not be able to count higher than 5 or 10
  • Only count the total number of dots
  • Want to build with the dominoes
  • Not have one-to-one correspondence
  • Not understand the concept of more than and less than
Child care providers may:
  • Use a sheet of paper to cover the side of the domino that is not being used to allow children to focus on one side at a time
  • Use only the dominoes in the kit that add up to 5 or 10
  • Have the children identify dominoes of equal value and then build with them
  • Provide assistance when the children are counting to emphasize counting one by one with the dots on the dominoes
  • Have the children focus on counting using one-to-one correspondence
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Not know or be able to identify the left and right side
  • Need to start with smaller numbers in order to understand the concept
  • Be able to write the number of dots on their domino and want more of a challenge
  • Want to build with the dominoes
Child care providers may:
  • Start with the smaller number dominoes
  • Provide paper and pencils to write the numerals and also show the children the + and = symbols to create an addition sentence
  • Ask the children to build using dominoes of a certain value
  • Ask the children to place the dominoes with the same total value together
  • Tell the children to match the dominoes with the same number dots together
  • Use extension ideas above in a lesson

Suggested Books

  • Math Dictionary for Kids by Theresa Fitzgerald (Austin, TX: Prufrock Press Inc., 2011)
  • Counting Crocodiles by Judy Sierra (New York: Harcourt, 1997)
  • Secret Agent Josephine’s Secret Spy Numbers by Brenda Ponnay (Tustin, CA: Xist Publishing, 2011)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

  • Collect items such as rocks, leaves or acorns. Children can sort the items and place some of the items on one side of a folded piece of paper and some on the other side. Count the items on one side. Then count the items on the other side. Finally, count the total number of items.
  • Ask the children to sit in a circle. Call up some of the children and split them into two groups. Count the number of children in each group. Then count the total number of children.

Web Resources

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