Noodle Cadoodle Counting

In this lesson, children will sort, classify and count by ones to determine "how many?"

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
  • Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional shapes and develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships

Learning Targets:

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

  • Counting with understanding and recognizing “how many” in sets of objects
  • Using one-to-one correspondence when counting
  • Counting by ones
  • Counting to answer “how many”
  • Connecting number words and numerals to the quantity they represent
  • Comparing and sorting shapes

Noodle Cadoodle Counting

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Four different types of uncooked noodles such as macaroni, penne, rigatoni and rotini
  • Four containers (bowls, partitioned plates or plastic Ziploc bags)
  • A tray with divided areas or other flat surface
  • Glue and paintbrushes (for glue)
  • Large paper plates or 8½ x 11 plain sheets of paper, folded in quarters
  • Markers/crayons

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. Show the children a large baggie or clear container holding a variety of noodles.
  2. Ask: “What do you see on my tray or container? Do all of the noodles look the same? Are they all the same size? Shape? Color?” How else are the noodles different?”
  3. Tell the children that you want to find out how many there are of each type of noodle and that you need their help putting the noodles in groups (e.g., all of the macaroni noodles go in one group, the penne in another, etc.)
  4. Tell the children: “Since there are four different kinds of noodles, I am going to have four groups.”
  5. Place four paper plates out, one for each type of noodle.
  6. Choose a child to come up and begin the sorting. The child should choose a noodle and place it on the plate of his/her choosing (at this point, no plates have noodles, so the child gets to be the one to start the plate for that type of noodle.)
  7. Ask the children to take turns at sorting noodles into the correct plates until all of the noodles are done.
  8. Ask the children questions such as: “Do all of the groups have the same amount of noodles? Which group has the most? Which group has the least? Is there any group that has the same?”

Note: For some of the above questions, children may need to count the noodles. Demonstrate counting using one-to-one correspondence. Count the noodles in each group with the children and write the number on the plate for that group.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Tell the children they now have the chance to do the same activity on their own with their own bag of noodles. Each child will be given a baggie containing varying numbers of noodles and a paper plate that has been divided into four different sections.
  2. Ask each child to sort his/her bag of noodles on his/her plate. Children will use their paper plates to classify the noodles and use the paintbrushes to glue the noodles onto the plate in the right section. As each child completes his/her sorting, he/she will count how many noodles are in each section and write the number on the plate.
  3. Ask questions about what the children are doing as they complete the task: “How many noodles do you think you have in your bag?”
  • “Do you think you will put the same amount of noodles in each section?”
  • “Which part of your plate has the most noodles? The least?”
  • “How many macaroni noodles do you have? Penne? Bowtie? Rotini?”
  • “Look at your friend’s plate. Does it look the same as yours?”
  • “Do you have the same amount of each noodle?”
  • “Who has more penne noodles? Rotini? Bowtie? Rigatoni?”

Note: You may want to dye the noodles different colors using food coloring. Place each type of noodle into a storage bag and add some food coloring. (Use a different color for each type of noodle.) Shake the noodles in the bag until they are well covered by the food coloring. Set the noodles out to dry on a paper towel. Once the noodles have dried, children can explore sorting the noodles by not only their shape, but by color and count how much they have of each color. Additionally, the “tube-type” noodles can be strung with yarn creating necklaces or bracelets. Finally, the students can create a noodle picture by gluing the colorful noodles on paper or on paper plates.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Sort: Separating the items according to a given attribute (e.g.,”Let’s sort the noodles by putting them into groups where they are the same.”)
  • Classify: Putting items in the same group based on similar traits and providing a name to the grouping (e.g.,”We classified this group of noodles as the macaroni noodles; all the penne noodles together make another group, etc.”)
  • More than, less than, the same: Words used to compare quantity (e.g.,”There are more macaroni noodles than penne. There are less rigatoni noodles than bowties.”)
  • Count: To identify the amount of something by number (e.g.,”Let’s count how many macaroni noodles we have.”)
  • Amount: The total or sum (e.g.,”What amount of noodles did you use?”)
  • Same: Equal in kind or quantity (e.g., “Does the macaroni group have the same amount as the penne group?”)
  • Different: Not similar in size, shape, color or other characteristic (e.g.,”How is this noodle different than the other noodle?”)
  • More than: A value that is higher or greater in number (e.g.,”Which group of noodles has more than the penne group?”)
  • Less: A value that is smaller in number (e.g.,”Does this group have less noodles than the penne group?”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not be able to count using one-to-one correspondence
  • Place the noodles any place on the plate
  • Not want to get glue on their fingers
  • Try to eat the noodles
Child care providers may:
  • Give the child one noodle at a time and count it
  • Divide the plate into four different parts and have the child work with one type of noodle at a time
  • Paint the glue on the plate and have the child place the noodle on the glue
  • Explain that the noodles are not cooked and are not meant for eating in this activity
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Be able to count higher than 15
  • Want to create a design using the noodles
  • Want to dictate a story about what they made
  • Try to eat the noodles
Child care providers may:
  • Provide extra noodles so the children can reach their own ability levels
  • Encourage the children to count and sort the various types of noodles first and then create their own designs
  • Write the child’s story on a separate piece of paper
  • Explain that the noodles are not cooked and are not meant for eating in this activity

Suggested Books

  • The Very Hungry Caterpiller by Eric Carle (New York: Clarion, 1969)
  • Strega Nona by Tomiede Paola (New York: Aladdin Picture Books, 1979)
  • More Spaghetti I Say by Rita Golden Gelman (New York: Scholastic, 1977)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

Collect different items found in the outdoor environment such as rocks, sticks and leaves to count, sort and compare amounts.

Web Resources

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