Math Access for Teachers and Home Child Care Providers

Laundry Sorting

Children will sort “laundry” by colors, size, shapes and clothing attributes.

Content Area Standard Target
• Measurement
• Algebra
• Data Analysis and Probabiity
• Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement
• Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them
• Understand patterns, relations, functions
• Sort and classify objects according to their attributes and organize data about the objects
• Recognize the attributes of length, volume, weight, area and time; Compare and order objects according to these attributes
• Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them
Obtain the Materials

• There are several ways in which you can proceed with this activity.  You can use doll’s clothing from the dramatic play area or you can use the children’s clothing. This works especially well during the winter time because you can include hats, scarves, mittens, and other outdoor gear.  To make sure that the children are able to sort by colors, sizes and shapes, it is best to prepare the materials beforehand. You can also cut out different clothing items from stencils and use colored (blue, red, green, yellow) construction paper cutting the pieces of clothing in small and large sizes.  Keep the cut-outs simple (e.g., Basic shirt shape in several colors and in small and large sizes)- shirts, pants, socks, skirts, shorts, dresses, hats, etc.
• Small, plastic produce baskets that berries come in or large laundry baskets (The size of the basket depends on the objects you are using)

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

1. Ask the children if they have ever helped their family members of friends with the laundry?  Ask them what they need to do before they actually wash the laundry.  Explain that many times, before people do laundry, they need to sort their laundry into specific piles according to specific attributes.  Often times, people sort their laundry by color – "I sort my laundry into light colors like white and pale pink and darks like black and dark blue.”  Sometimes, people sort their laundry into types of clothing – “I sort my laundry into jeans, towels and delicates such as underwear, t-shirts and fancy shirts.” And sometimes people separate their laundry into size of clothing – “I sort my laundry into blankets and comforters and small clothing like socks, mittens and hand towels.”
2. Explain that today the children are going to be given piles of laundry and their job is to sort the laundry according to the attributes we decide.
3. Give the children a working definition of the word attribute.  "A characteristic like size, shape, or color."

Engage the Children

1. Give each child the laundry cut-outs and several baskets.  Make sure there are enough baskets for the amount of attributes they are sorting.
2. Start sorting with just 2 attributes, start sorting by size. Say: “Our first sort will be by size.  You will have 2 baskets and you will be sorting your laundry into big and little piles.  Who can give me an example of a piece of laundry that is big?” (Coat, towel, pants)  “Yes.  Go ahead and put your big laundry into one basket and the other basket will be for small laundry.  “Who can give me an example of small laundry?” (Mittens, hand towels, underwear)  Once their piles of laundry have been correctly sorted, have them put all of their laundry back into a pile and get ready for the next sort.
3. Increase the attributes and also, give the children more baskets.  Make sure the children have one basket for each of the attributes they will be sorting by. Say: “Next we are going to sort by color. What different colors do you see in your laundry pile?” (Blue, red, green, yellow)  “So, all the yellow pieces of laundry will go into 1 basket and all your green pieces of laundry will go into another basket and so on.”  Once their piles of laundry have been correctly sorted, have them put all of their laundry back into a pile and get ready for the last sort.
4. Say: “Our last sort is going to be by type of clothing.”  Again, make sure the children have the correct number of baskets to match the number of sort topics.  Say: “Let’s start by sorting our laundry into piles of clothing we wear on the top parts of our bodies and clothing we wear on the bottom parts of our bodies.  Who can give me an example of clothing that we wear on the top part of our bodies?” (hats, shirts, jackets)  “What is an example of clothing that we wear on the bottom parts of our bodies?” (pants, socks, underwear)  You can provide them with a number of sorts within this category–
• Pieces of laundry that you don’t wear but that still need to be washed (towels, blankets) and pieces of laundry that you do wear.
• Clothing that you wear inside and clothing that you wear outside.
• Clothing that you wear when it is cold outside and clothing that you wear when it is hot outside.
• Clothing you wear to sleep, to play sports, to a fancy party/event, school.
• Clothing that you wear to swim, to play soccer, to sled.

• Create piles of laundry pieces with the same attributes. Have the children try and figure out the common attribute of all the items in the pile.
• Have the children come up with their own attributes in which to sort the laundry. Ask a child if they can come up with a way to sort the laundry.
• Have a prepared questionnaire that the children can use to collect their data.  On one side of the sheet, the long side of the sheet, have all the children’s first names listed.  At the top of the sheet, have the various categories listed.  For example, red shirts, blue pants, white socks, yellow sweaters. Make a grid of each child’s name and the listed category so that there is a box under each category on the same line that the child’s name is listed.  With their sheet, have the children interview their classmates and collect their data.

Encourage Vocabulary

• Attribute A characteristic like size, shape, or color (e.g., “Many times, before people do laundry, they need to sort their laundry into specific piles according to specific attributes.”)
• Sort Separate items according to a given attribute (e.g. “Many times, before people do laundry, they need to sort their laundry into specific piles according to specific attributes.”)

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

• Have difficulty recognizing the category sorts.

Pre-K Children may:

• Easily identify laundry items possessing like attributes.

Home child care providers may:

• Brainstorm various ideas that constitute the categories. Have the children respond to questions that have many right answers. Incorporate these questions into the attributes that make up the various sorts.  For example, asking the children what types of clothes they wear to go outside and then asking them to find those clothes in the laundry pile.

Home child care providers may:

• Create piles of laundry pieces with the same attributes.  Have the children try and figure out the common attribute of all the items in the pile.
• Have the children come up with their own attributes in which to sort the laundry.  Ask a child if they can come up with a way to sort the laundry.
• Have a prepared questionnaire that the children can use to collect their data.  On one side of the sheet, the long side of the sheet, have all the children’s first names listed.  At the top of the sheet, have the various categories listed.  For example, red shirts, blue pants, white socks, yellow sweaters. Make a grid of each child’s name and the listed category so that there is a box under each category on the same line that the child’s name is listed.  With their sheet, have the children interview their classmates and collect their data.

Books

• Sort it Out! by Barbara Mariconda (Mt. Pleasant, SC: Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2008)

• Sorting by Henry Arthur Pluckrose. (New York: Children's Press, 1995)
• Grandma's Button Box by Linda Williams Aber (Minneapolis, MN: Kane Press Paperback, 2002)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

• This can be a great fall activity rich with opportunity.  The children can collect different types of leaves and the children can sort and categorize the leaves by shape, size and color.

• Play Guess My Rule.  http://pbskids.org/zoom/activities/sci/guessmyrule.html
Instead of having a physical trait as an attribute, use an action as an attribute.  Sort all the things you see outside that fly.  Sort all of the items that move and don’t move; grow and don’t grow; need water and don’t need water.

Web Resources

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