Math at Home Math Access for Teachers
and Home Child Care Providers

CME Group Community Foundation



Bears in a Bucket

Children will weigh and compare the Bear Family Counters using a Balance.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Measurement
  • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement
  • Use a balance to measure weight using nonstandard units
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Bear Family Counters (If you do not have the Bear Family Counters, other small, like items may be used.)
  • Bucket Balance
  • Pennies or other materials that can be used with the balance to weight using a nonstandard measure
  • Paper/pens
  • Book: Berenstein Bears Big Bear, Small Bear

Note: Small parts create a choking hazard for children. Make sure that all materials you choose to use for an activity or lesson with children meet safety requirements. Small parts are not appropriate for children who are 5 years of age or younger.

Introduce the activity Introduce the Activity
  1. Read: The Berenstein Bears Big Bear, Small Bear. This book will support the concepts of bigger and smaller.
  2. Show the children the Bear Family Counters.
  3. Ask: "What do you notice about the bears?"
  4. Explain that there are different sized bears in the families.
  5. Ask children to identify which bears are small and which bears are big.
  6. Allow the children to simply explore the counters before introducing the Bucket Balance.
  7. Ask the children to predict if they think the big bears weigh more than, less than or the same as the small bears.
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Take out the Bucket Balance.
  2. Introduce the Bucket Balance and explain that it can be used to weigh small things. Show how the bucket balance works.
  3. Place the Bucket Balance on the table and in small groups work with the children to balance the bears.
  4. Invite the children to place equal numbers of large bears on one side of the balance and equal number of small bears on the other side of the balance.
  5. Observe the children’s reactions to the Bucket Balance.
  6. Ask the children for ideas about how to make the bucket balance.
  7. Offer other ideas about placing different numbers of bears on each side, mixing the sizes and numbers, seeking balance.
  8. Extend the activity by introducing other objects that children can use to balance with the bears (i.e., pennies). For example, place 2 big bears in one bucket and have the children add pennies in the other bucket until it is balanced. Then have children state the result, "2 big bears weigh the same as ___ pennies."
  9. Challenge children by asking them to think of big things (for example, a large balloon) that do not weigh much and small things that weigh a lot (for example, steel marbles, or dense pebbles).
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Heavier – Having greater weight
  • Lighter – Having less weight
  • More than – A value that is higher or greater in number
  • Less than – A value that is smaller in number
  • Balance – To make equal or to be equal
  • Same – Identical in kind or quantity
  • Different – Unlike
  • Weigh – To measure according weight
  • Estimate – To form an approximate judgment or opinion regarding the amount, worth, size, weight, etc., of; to calculate approximately
  • Predict – To guess what will happen next

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Play with the bears.
  • Simply guess at the predictions.
  • Not be able to tell when the buckets are balanced.


Vertical line

Preschoolers may:

  • Want to place other objects in the balance.


Home child care providers may:

  • Encourage the children to play with the bears and the bucket balance together.
  • Support the toddlers guesses with supportive words and allow them to guess and check their guesses using the bears and the balance.


Home child care providers may:

  • Provide a variety of small objects that can be placed in the bucket balance.


Books Books
  • Me and the Measure of Things by Joan Sweeny and Annette Cable (New York: Dragonfly Books, 2001)
  • Big Bear, Little Bear by Jan Berenstein and Stan Berenstein ( New York: Random House, 1998)
  • Big Dog, Little Dog by P.D. Eastman (New York: Random House, 1973)
Music and movement Music and Movement


Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  1. Bring the Bucket Balance outdoors to weigh small found objects.
  2. Collect small items to bring into the classroom from outside (pebbles, twigs, acorns, etc.) to weigh and compare weight and balance with bears. 


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