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

CME Group Community Foundation



Jack and the Beanstalk

Children will estimate and then measure how many beans fit in the giant’s hand and
compare it to how many beans fit in their own hand.


Content Area Standard Target
  • Number and Operations
  • Algebra
  • Measurement
  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems
  • Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates
  • Understand patterns, relations, and functions
  • Analyze change in various contexts
  • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement
  • Count with understanding and recognize “how many” in sets of object Connect number words and numerals to the quantities they represent, using various physical models and representations
  • Use a variety of methods and tools to compute, including objects, mental computation, estimation,paper & pencil, and calculators
  • Sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties
  • Describe qualitative & quantitative change
  • Understand how to measure using nonstandard and standard units
  • Select an appropriate unit and tool for the attribute being measured
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • The book, Jack and the Beanstalk.  There are many versions to choose from.
  • Red Kidney Beans.  2 bags should be more than enough for this lesson.
  • Copies of a large hand print that represents the Giant’s hand. 
  • Paper and pencil for tracing children's hands.


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. Ask the children if they have ever heard the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk.  What do they remember about the story?
  2. Ask who was bigger, Jack or the Giant?  (the Giant) Ask: “How do you know the Giant was bigger than Jack?”
  3. Explain that today, using beans, they are going to measure the Giant’s hand and our own hands and see whose hand is bigger and by how much? 
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Read the book, Jack and the Beanstalk.
  2. Compare the Giant’s size to that of the children.  Ask: Who is bigger?  Who is smallerExplain to the children that, using beans as a measuring tool, they are going to measure how many beans the Giant’s hand is.
  3. Ask the children to estimate how many beans they think it will take to fill the Giant’s hand.
  4. After covering the hand with beans, count the number of beans by putting the beans in piles of 10 and then counting.
  5. Individually, ask the children to estimate how many beans they will need to cover their own hands. Trace each child's hand and then have them glue the necessary beans inside their hand and then count how many beans they have used.

Additional Extensions

  • Use the beans to measure "How many beans tall"  the hand is, “How many beans wide” the hand is etc.
  • Compare, using subtraction, how much “bigger” the Giant’s hand is to that of our own.  Have the children find the difference between each other’s hands.  “My hand is 14 beans larger than her hand.”
  • Have the children practice counting the beans by twos, tens, and other amounts as appropriate.
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Estimate – To make a guess or rough calculation, often based on rounding (e.g, "Estimate how many beans do you think it will take to fill the Giant’s hand.")
  • Bigger than – Of considerable size in comparison (e.g., "The Giant’s hand is bigger than my hand.")
  • Smaller than – Diminished in size compared to an object that is larger (e.g., "His hand is smaller than my hand.")
  • Compare – To identify the similarities and differences between two things based on one or more attributes (e.g., "Compare the two hands.  Notice whose hand has more beans.")
  • Measure – Use of standard units to find out size or quantity in regard to length, width, height, area, mass, weight, volume, temperature, and time (e.g., "Let’s measure how many beans we will need to fill the giant’s hand.")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Have difficulty with one-to-one correspondence.
  • Have difficulty making groups of 10.
Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Possess working knowledge of one-to-one correspondence.
  • Easily count and group objects into sets of 10.

Home child care providers may:

  • Assist in counting out the beans with the child. 
  • Model what a group of 10 looks like.
  • Help the children count out the amount of beans they need to fill their hand trace before they glue the beans down.


Home child care providers may:

  • Use beans to measure “How many beans tall” the Giant’s hand is, or  “How many beans wide” the hand is.
  • Have children compare, using subtraction, how much “bigger” the Giant’s hand is to that of their own. 
  • Have the children find the difference between each other’s hand.  “My hand is 14 beans larger than her hand.”


Books Books
  • Jack and the Beanstalk by Steven, Kellogg (New York: HarperCollins, 1997)
  • How Many Seeds In A Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian. Karas (New York: Swartz & Wade, 2007)
  • Measuring Penny by Loreen Leedy (New York: Square Fish, 2000)
Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Take this activity outdoors and measure various objects mentioned in the book, Jack and the Beanstalk.  The children can use any instrument to measure.  We are just using beans because they go with our Jack and the Beanstalk theme.  Have the children measure the height of a tall plant or an actual beanstalk.  The children can measure the width of a tree or the circumference of a tree, the height and width of a large leave or tall flower.  Have the children guess “how many beans tall” they think that the object will be and they can then measure to see if they are correct.

  • Grow beanstalks.  Take time to observe how beans grow and measure the plants each day as they grow.  A simple way to plant beans is to use cotton balls, water, plastic baggies, a bowl of water, and lima beans.  Before introducing the activity to the children, soak the lima beans overnight to speed up the process.  Have each child dip their cotton ball into water and place them in their baggie.  They should use enough cotton balls to fill the bottom of their baggie.  Next, each child will add lima beans to their baggie.  Remind the children that the beans need space to grow and need 4 or 5 days to sprout.  Once the children have finished adding their cotton balls and beans to their baggies, close up the baggies and tape them to a window (make sure the baggies are sealed tight so they hold in the moisture).  Wait and see what happens. Talk about the growth of the beans as they start to shoot out some sprouts.

Explore links Web Resources
  • This interactive game asks children to estimate the height of an object using a variety of non-standard units of measurement, just as George measures himself with licorice whips on the TV show. The Man with the Yellow Hat then counts aloud to see if the estimate is correct. This will give your child practice in counting, as well as in testing a simple hypothesis.



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