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

CME Group Community Foundation



Float, Fly, Drive
Children will sort, classify, count, and compare different types of transportation.
Content Area Standard Target
  • Data and Probability
  • Formulate questions that can be addresses with data and collect, prganize, and display relevant data to answer them
  • Select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data
  • Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data
  • Describe and organize data
  • Sort and classify objects
  • Use data to answer questions
  • Make predictions
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Mini-motors - Choose sets of 11 mini-motors, including 3 different types of transportation. NOTE: If you do not have mini-motors you can use pictures of various forms of transportation.
  • Small paper bags to place mini-motors inside for each child and one for the teacher.
  • A large paper chart with columns to chart ways the children might take a trip. Use pictures or drawings to illustrate varying types of transportation into 3 categories of float, fly, and drive.
  • Index cards (or other type of card or paper object) - One for each child with their name written on it to be used for charting transportation preference.
  • Paper (for each child to create his/her own chart)


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. Gather the children in a circle or around a table.
  2. Ask: "Have you or your family ever taken a trip?  How did you get there?" Let the children suggest transportation memories of all types of trips such as, to grandparents’ house, a city, a farm, a zoo, a park, a museum, etc. (walking, stroller, bus, train, car, airplane, etc).
  3. Look together at the chart to illustrate the ways we travel.
  4. Say: "I wonder how many different ways we might travel from one place to another? Who can think of what vehicles we might use to drive somewhere? Float somewhere? Fly somewhere?"
  5. Ask the children for their ideas. Add pictures or words to the chart to match the category for each child's suggestion. For example, if a child suggests helicopter then either draw or post a picture of a helicopter to the Fly heading on the chart.
  6. Ask: "If you were taking a trip, would it be more fun to Float, Fly or Drive?" Ask children to predict which one kids would pick the most. Each child then gets to provide his/her own answer to the question and come to the chart and place their name card in the category they choose.
  7. Ask questions children can answer using the completed chart:
    • Which category of transportation was chosen the most?
    • Which category was chosen the least?
    • Was our prediction correct about which would be picked the most?
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Shake one paper bag and empty it into the center. 
  2. Say: "Let’s look carefully. What kinds of transportation do you see?" Children can list types.
  3. Ask:
    • How are they the same?
    • How are they different?
    • Do any have wheels?
    • Do any fly?  
    • Do any float?
  4. Choose one vehicle and ask,  "How does this vehicle travel? Are there other vehicles that travel this way? Let’s put them together."
  5. Sort the vehicles into like categories - Float, Fly, Drive - and then count the number of each type of vehicle in each category with the children.
  6. Bring out a plain sheet of paper and show children how to create their own mini chart for the motors. Draw lines to make 3 columns. Write Float, Fly, and Drive at the top of each column. Then place the actual motors in the column in which they belong. End by asking questions about the chart. "Which column has more motors? Which column has the least motors?"
  7. Allow the children to suggest other ways to sort the vehicles - color, number of wheels, etc. - then sort them and count the number in each category.
  8. Give each child their own bag full of mini-motors.
  9. Say: "Now you are going to get your own bag and choose how you want to sort and label your own mini motors."
  10. Monitor children as they empty their bags prompting them by asking each "How do you plan on sorting your motors?"
  11. Give each child a piece of paper as they complete their sorting and allow them to create their own chart to share with others. Once charts are completed ask individual students questions such as "What categories did you use? Which category had the most motors? Which had the least motors?"
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Sort – Separating the items according to a given attribute (e.g., "Let’s sort the motors by putting them into groups according to whether they float, fly, or drive.")
  • 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 motors as the floaters, all these motors together make another group, etc.")
  • More than, less than, the same Words used to compare quantity (e.g., "There are more flying motors than floating motors. There are less red motors than blue motors.")
  • Count To identify the amount of something by number (e.g., "Let’s count how many motors that drive we have.")
  • Amount – The total number of an item (e.g., "What is the total amount of motors you used?")
  • Same – Identical in kind or quantity (e.g., "Does the fly group have the same amount as the drive group?")
  • Different – Not similar in size, shape, color or other characteristic (e.g., "How is this motor different than the other motor?")
  • More than – A value that is higher or greater in number (e.g., "Which group of motors has more than the float group?")
  • Less A value that is smaller in number (e.g., "Does this group have less motors than the fly group?")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Want to play with the motors instead of sort them.
  • Not be able to chart on their own.
  • May be able to sort but not provide a label to go with the groupings.
  • May not be able to count using one-to-one correspondence.
Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Want to play with the motors instead of sort them.
  • Need assistance in creating columns and writing labels for their own charts.
  • Need more of a challenge for sorting or charting.

Home child care providers may:

  • Allow time for play before or after the lesson.
  • Leave the charting steps out of the lesson or assist children in charting.
  • Make suggestions for labels for groupings to see which ones the child believe is correct.
  • Provide categories for children to sort by.
  • Provide fewer motors in the bag.
  • Assist children in counting the motors in each group.

Home child care providers may:

  • Allow time for play after the lesson.
  • Suggest children combine their motors to create a larger number for sorting and charting.
  • Provide a larger number of motors in each bag.
  • Assist children in writing the labels for the columns on their charts.
Books Books
  • The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper (Penguin Young Readers Group, 1990) 
  • Freight Train by Donald Crews (HarperCollins Publishers, 1996)
  • See How They Go: Cars (DK Publishing)
  • See How They Go: Airplanes (DK Publishing)
  • See How They Go: Boats (DK Publishing)
Music and movement Music and Movement
  • We’re Taking a trip and I’m taking along ……etc. ( an imaginary game)
    Play the thinking game,  We’re taking a trip  and I’m packing a _____________.
    One at a time, each child echos the refrain,  adds her/his  item, and repeats the previous items in order.  Continue until all the children have “packed” an item. 
  • Fly like an airplane, float like a boat, ride on the trainetc. are all movement activities you can do with children in the classroom.
    A group of lyrical songs with varied musical styles fro movement and singing activities.
  • We All Go Traveling By -


Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  1. Transportation Count: Look for school buses, trucks and cars on your block, or passing by. "Do you think we will see more red cars, yellow buses or trucks?"
  2. Car Count and tally the number of red, or blue, or black cars parked on your block, or in front of your house.  
  3. Truck count: Count the number of red, white or black trucks that pass by the house in a few minutes. 
  4. City Bus Count: Count the number of buses you see on your way to the park.


Explore links Web Resources



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