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

CME Group Community Foundation



Shoe Sort

Children will identify the attributes of shoes and sort them by these attributes.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Data and Probability
  • Geometry
  • Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three – dimensional geometric shapes
    and develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships
  • Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them
  • Select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data
  • Sort and classify objects according to their attributes and organize data about the objects
  • Pose questions and gather data to answer questions about themselves and their surroundings
  • Represent data using concrete objects, pictures, and graphs
  • Describe parts of the data and the set of data as a whole to determine what the data show
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Make sure that all the children are wearing their shoes

  • The book, Gray Rabbit’s Odd One Out by Alan Baker


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. Explain to the children that today we are going to talk about objects that go together and why these objects go together.
  2. Introduce the book, Gray Rabbit’s Odd One Out.  Explain that Gray Rabbit is trying to find his favorite book but he can’t because his room is too messy.  We need to help Gray Rabbit clean his room.
  3. Read the book.  Rabbit cleans his room by sorting his toys into categories. 
  4. When book reads, “Let’s sort out the wooden animals.” Ask: “Can someone come up and point out all the wooden animals?” State:  “All these wooden animals have the same characteristics / attributes.  These toys are all wooden and all animals.”
  5. When book reads, “But one thing was not a wooden animal.  What was the odd one out?” Ask: “Which object does not have the same characteristic / attribute as the wooden animals? What object is not a wooden animal?”
    The children will respond “spoon”  Turn the page and the book will confirm their response. Ask: “What objects would go with a spoon?”   “Why?” 
  6. Explain that we are now going to take a look at the characteristics / attributes of our shoes.  We are going to analyze our shoes. 
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Invite the children to take off their shoes and put them in a big pile.  Form a circle around the pile of shoes.
  2. Ask the children what they notice about the pile of shoes.  Restate what they observe by classifying the shoes and putting them into categories. Some of the shoes are blue.”,  “Some of the shoes are actually sandals”.  You might need to ask leading questions to get the children to start noticing the difference and similarities between the shoes.  “Are all the shoes the same color?”, “Do all of the shoes have laces?”
  3. Ask the children to put the shoes into their pairs.  After they are properly matched, count the pairs.
  4. Examine the pairs of shoes.  “What characteristics / attributes do the shoes have that make them a pair?”
    Take a shoe from one pair of shoes and another shoe from another pair.  Put the mis-matched shoes together.  Ask the children if these two shoes are a pair of shoes.  “Why or why not?”,  “Do these shoes have the same characteristics?”
  5. Place all the shoes back into a pile in the middle of the circle.
  6. Ask the children to sort the shoes into color.  All the red shoes go into one pile, all the blue shoes go into a pile, and so on.  When giving the children the classifications, make sure that all the shoes will be able to go into a pile.  Once the shoes are sorted, ask the children to look at the various piles.  Ask the children what they notice about the piles of shoes.  Point out the similarities and differences between the piles of shoes.  Ask about the piles of shoes, (talking about the blue pile of shoes) “What characteristics / attributes do all these shoes have in common?”  “How are these shoes the same?”, “How are these shoes different?”
  7. Place all the shoes back into a pile in the middle of a circle.
  8. Ask the children to sort out the shoes that are for running.  Again, have the children notice the shoe’s similarities and differencesRestate that the common characteristics/ attributes of these shoes is that they are shoes for running.
  9. Extend the children’s vocabulary by having the children compare the shoes in the piles.
    • What characteristics / attributes do all of these shoes have in common?”
    • How are these shoes different?”
    • How are these shoes the same?”

Additional Extensions

  • Without the children’s help, place the shoes into piles and have the children identify the common characteristic of the shoe pile.  Ask the children, “Why did I put these shoes together?”,  “What do these shoes have in common?”
  • Have the children come up with their own characteristics / attributes in which to sort the shoes.  Ask a child if they can come up with a way to sort the pile of shoes.  Once you have given them the examples of sorting by color, purpose, design, they should be able to come up with a category.  It might be necessary to prompt them by suggesting ideas that haven’t been used as of yet.  “What about sorting by size?”,  “By shape?”
  • 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, sneakers, sandals, boots and others.  Explain to the children that “others” are shoes that are not sneakers, boots or sandals.  Another category could be colors – red, blue, black, brown and other. 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 collect their data.  
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Same – Identical in kind or quantity (e.g., "How are these shoes the same?")
  • In Common Sharing equally (e.g., "What does these shoes have in common?")
  • Different – Not similar in size, shape, color or other characteristic (e.g., "How are these shoes different?")
  • Characteristics/Attributes – A quality or feature of someone or something (e.g., "What are the characteristics of these shoes?”  “What attributes do these shoes have in common?")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Only be able to focus on one attribute - for example, color.
Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Easily recognize same and different.
  • Be able to group according to more than one attribute at a time.

Home child care providers may:

  • Choose to have children only focus on a single attribute for sorting.
  • Need to provide prompts to get children to think about a different attribute of shoes.


Home child care providers may:

  • Have children collect and record data through interviewing their friends.
  • Prompt children with more difficult suggestions - for example, who can sort the brown laced shoes in one pile and the brown velcro shoes in another pile.


Books Books
  • Gray Rabbit's Odd One Out by Alan Baker (New York: Kingfisher, 1995)
  • Do Like a Duck Does by Judy Hindley (Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2002)
Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections 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. 


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