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

CME Group Community Foundation



Noodle Cadoodle Counting

Children will sort, classify, count by ones to determine "how many?"

Content Area Standard Target
  • Number and Operations
  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems
  • Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional shapes and develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships
  • Count with understanding and recognize "how may" in sets of objects
  • Use one-to-one correspondence when counting
  • Count by ones
  • Count to answer “how many”
  • Connect number words and numerals to the quantity they represent
  • Compare and sort shapes
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • 4 different types of uncooked noodles such as macaroni, penne, rigatoni, and rotini
  • 4 containers (bowls, partitioned plates, or plastic Ziploc bags),
  • A tray with divided areas or other flat surface
  • Glue and Paintbrushes (for glue)
  • Large paper plates or 8 x 11 plain sheet of paper folded in fours
  • Markers/crayons 


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. Show the children a large baggie or clear container holding a variety of noodles. 
  2. Ask:
    • "What do you see on my tray or container?"
    • "Do all of the noodles look the same?" 
    • "Are they all the same size? Shape? Color?"
    • "How else are the noodles different?"
  3. Tell the children that you want to find out how many there are of each type of noodle and that you need their help putting the noodles in groups; for example, all of the macaroni noodles go in one group, the penne in another, etc.
  4. Tell the children, "Since there are 4 different kinds of noodles I am going to have 4 groups.
  5. Place 4 paper plates out, one for each type of noodle.
  6. Choose a child to come up and begin the sorting. The child should choose a noodle and place it on the plate of their choosing (at this point no plates have noodles so they get to be the one to start the plate for that type of noodle.)
  7. Ask the children to take turns at sorting noodles into the correct plates until all of noodles are done.
  8. Ask the children questions such as:
    • "Do all of the groups have the same amount of noodles?"
    • "Which group has the most?"
    • "Which group has the least?"
    • "Is there any group that has the same?"
    Note: For some of the above questions, children may need to count the noodles. Demonstrate counting using one-to-one correspondence. Count the noodles in each group with the children and write the number on the plate for that group.
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Tell the children they now have the chance to do the same activity on their own with their own bag of noodles.  Each child will be given a baggie containing varying numbers of noodles and a paper plate that has been divided into 4 different sections.
  2. Ask each child to sort his/her bag of noodles on his/her plate.  Children will use their paper plates to classify the noodles and use the paintbrushes to glue the noodles onto the plate in the right section.  As each child completes his/her sorting he/she will count how many noodles are in each section and write the number on the plate.
  3. Ask questions about what the children are doing as they complete the task:
    • "How many noodles do you think you have in your bag?"
    • "Do you think you will put the same amount of noodles in each section?"
    • "Which part on your plate has the most noodles?" "The least?"
    • "How many macaroni noodles do you have?" "Penne?" "Bowtie?" "Rotini?"
    • "Look at your friend’s plate, does it look the same as yours?"
    • "Do you have the same amount of each noodle?"
    • "Who has more penne noodles?" "Rotini?" "Bowtie?" "Rigatoni?"

    Note: You may want to dye the noodles different colors using food coloring.   Place each type of noodle into a storage bag and add some food coloring.  (Use a different color for each type of noodle.)  Shake the noodles in the bag until they are well covered by the food coloring.  Set the noodles out to dry on a paper towel.  Once the noodles have dried, children can explore sorting the noodles by not only their shape, but by color and count how much they have of each color.  Additionally, the “tube-type” noodles can be strung with yarn creating necklaces or bracelets.  Finally, the students can create a noodle picture by gluing the colorful noodles on paper or on paper plates.

Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Sort – Separating the items according to a given attribute (e.g., "Let’s sort the noodles by putting them into groups where they are the same.")
  • 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 noodles as the macaroni noodles, all the penne noodles together make another group, etc.")
  • More than, less than, the same Words used to compare quantity (e.g., "There are more macaroni noodles than penne. There are less rigatoni noodles than bowties.")
  • Count To identify the amount of something by number (e.g., "Let’s count how many macaroni noodles we have.")
  • Amount – The total or sum (e.g., "What amount of noodles did you use?")
  • Same – Equal in kind or quantity (e.g., "Does the macaroni group have the same amount as the penne group?")
  • Different – Not similar in size, shape, color or other characteristic (e.g., "How is this noodle different than the other noodle?")
  • More than – A value that is higher or greater in number (e.g., "Which group of noodles has more than the penne group?")
  • Less A value that is smaller in number (e.g., "Does this group have less noodles than the penne group?")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not be able to count using one-to-one correspondence.
  • Place the noodles any place on the plate.
  • Not want to get glue on their fingers.
  • Try to eat the noodles.


Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Be able to count higher than 15.
  • Want to create a design using the noodles.
  • Want to dictate a story about what they made.
  • Try to eat the noodles.


Home child care providers may:

  • Give the child one noodle at a time and count it.
  • Divide the plate into four different parts and have the child work with one type of noodle at a time.
  • Paint the glue on the plate and have the child place the noodle on the glue.
  • Explain that the noodles are not cooked and are not meant for eating in this activity.


Home child care providers may:

  • Provide extra noodles so the child can reach their own ability level.
  • Encourage children to count and sort the various types of noodles first and then create their own design.
  • Write the child’s story on a separate piece of paper.
  • Explain that the noodles are not cooked and are not meant for eating in this activity.


Books Books
  • The Very Hungry Caterpiller by Eric Carle (New York: Clarion, 1969)
  • Strega Nona by Tomiede Paola (New York: Aladdin Picture Books, 1979)
  • More Spaghetti I Say by Rita Golden Gelman (New York: Scholastic, 1977)
Music and movement Music and Movement


Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Collect different items found in the outdoor environment such as rocks, sticks and leaves to count, sort, and compare amounts.


Explore links Web Resources




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