In this lesson, children will practice sorting not-number cards from number cards and develop their number sense by identifying similar numbers, one below a number and one above a number.

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 patterns, relations and functions
  • 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:

  • Developing understanding of the relative position and magnitude of whole numbers and of ordinal and cardinal numbers and their connections
  • Sorting, classifying and ordering objects by size, number and other properties
  • Modeling situations that involve the addition and subtraction of whole numbers, using objects, pictures and symbols


Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • A deck of Uno cards (You might want to combine two decks, depending on how many children you have playing the game)
  • Chart paper and markers

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 today the children are going to learn a card game about numbers. Ask if any of the children play cards. If so, what types of card games do they play?
  2. Explain ordinalthe  numbers to the children. List the numbers 1-10 on the chart paper. Ask questions that elicit responses about the order of the number sequence. Say: “Let’s count the numbers that we see up here on the board: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Good. These numbers are in order. The two comes after the one. The seven comes before the eight. There is a sequence—an order of the numbers 0-10.” Ask: “What number comes after the number five?” Say: “Six. Good. Five, six, seven, eight.” Ask: “What number comes before the number nine?” Say: “Eight. Good. Eight, nine, ten.”
  3. Explain that today’s game is all about identifying same numbers and numbers that come before and after on the number line.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. First, have the children sort the number cards from the non-number cards. Set aside the non-number cards (the skips, the draws and the wild) and play with just the number cards.
  2. Deal out about five cards per child (play with the cards in the open-face position because it can be difficult for small children to hold many cards in their hands). Set out a draw pile (face down) and a play pile (face up).
  3. Explain that this game is called Up, Down or Stay the Same.
  4. To play, look at the card on top of the play pile. Each player may place a card that is up (one bigger), down (one smaller) or the same as the visible card. You can use the 0 card to be both 0 and 10, so that the number sequence is cyclical and there are always three potential cards that can be played. Start off taking turns. The child who gets rid of all of his/her cards first wins.

Additional Extensions

  • Once the children get the hang of the game, it can turn to everyone just playing a card when they can. The children draw one more card if nobody is able to play.
  • There are many different math games that you can play with Uno Cards: click here

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Ordinal: Numbers that show the place or position (e.g.,”The number 0 is the first number in our sequence.”)
  • Sequence: An ordered set of numbers, shapes or other mathematical objects arranged according to a rule (e.g.,”The number two comes before the number three in our number sequence.”)
  • Number line: A line marked with numbers (e.g.,”Explain that today’s game is all about identifying same numbers and numbers that come before and after on the number line.”)
  • Sort: To separate items according to a given attribute (e.g.,”First, have the children sort the number cards from the not-number cards.”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Have difficulty with the “up and down” of the game
  • Have trouble identifying numbers in the number-line sequence
Child care providers may:
  • Have the children match similar numbers or play with matching colors (“If you have a red card, you may put it down on the discard pile.”)
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Already be able to identify the number sequence and which number, 0-10, comes in the correct order
Child care providers may:
  • Pick up the speed of the game and change the rules so that the children are just playing a card when they can. The children draw one more card if nobody is able to play.
  • Keep the wild cards in the deck. Play just one direction, starting at 0 and then discarding cards in ascending order. If a player does not have the correct number card, then they may use a wild card or draw another card. When using the wild card, the player needs to identify which number they are playing. This variation can be played in ascending or descending order.

Suggested Books

  • Construction Countdown by K.C. Olsen (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2004)
  • A Place for Zero: A Math Adventure by Angeline Sparagna Lopresti (Boston: Charlesbridge Pub Inc., 2003)
  • Counting Crocodiles by Judy Sierra (New York: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2001)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

  • Play Red Rover using numbers. Red Rover rules: At least six people are divided into two equal teams, which line up opposite each other, no more than 30 feet apart. The first team agrees to call one player from the opposite team and chants: “Red Rover, Red Rover, send (a number) on over! Give each child a number to remember and instruct the children to respond when their number is called.) The person/number called runs to the other line and attempts to break the chain (formed by the linking of hands). If the person called fails to break the chain, this player joins the team that called Red Rover. But, if the player successfully breaks the chain, he may capture either of the two players whose link was broken by the dash and bring them back to his original team. Teams take turns calling out Red Rover and challenging a player on the opposing team. Depending on whether you gain or lose a team player, you will need to recount and give the players new numbers after every turn. The objective of the game is to end with the most players on your team by maintaining the integrity of your chain. The game ends when all of the players end up on one side. While the game’s objective is keeping the chain intact, players holding on too tightly might cause injury to players in the chain-links or to the runner. Remember, it’s just a game!

Web Resources

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