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

CME Group Community Foundation



Up Down Around

After reading the book, Up, Down and Around by Katherine Ayres, children will use a small toy and box to represent positional words.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Geometry
  • Specify locations and describe spatial relationships using coordinate geometry and other representational systems
  • Use visualization, spatial reasoning, and geometric modeling to solve problems
  • Describe and name relative positioning when traveling – over, under, around, and through
  • Describe an object by its shape and location
  • Describe, name, and interpret direction and distance navigating space and apply ideas about direction and distance
  • Describe, name, and interpret relative positions in space and apply ideas about relative position
  • Find and name locations with simple relationships such as “under” and in coordinate systems such as maps
  • Develop common referents for measures to make comparisons and estimates
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • The book, Up, Down and Around by Katherine Ayers.
  • Small toys that move – small cars or trucks.
  • Boxes.  Small shipping boxes or even, cereal boxes


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. Introduce the children to the positional words that you will be using in this lesson – up, down and around.
  2. Explain what a positional word is, in comparison to a regular word.  “Positional words allow you to follow and give directions and to use language precisely.”  Model each of the words with one of the small toys.

                        “The car is traveling up the chair.”
                        “The car is sliding down my arm.”
                        “The car to traveling around the easel.”

  1. Read the book, Up, Down and Around.  When you are done wit the book, ask the children to identify the positional words.
  2. Once up, down, and around are identified, have the children act out the words.  “Can you show me up?”, “Can you show me down?’, “Can you show me around?”
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Give each child a box and a toy.  Give directions to the children by inserting positional words into sentences:

            “The toy is traveling ______________________ the box.”  The children should then follow your directions.

  1. Ask the children what the words up, down, and around have in common?  (The children should be able to answer the question verbally or by acting it out and incorporate “direction” and/or “traveling” in their answer.

Additional Extensions

  • Using the box and the toy, introduce more positional words (in, out, on top, on the bottom….)
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Up – Toward the sky or higher position (e.g., "Move the car up the box.")
  • Down – Toward or in a lower place or position, especially to or on the ground or another surface (e.g. "Move the toy down the box.")
  • Around – On every side of (e.g., "We went around the box.")
  • Positional words – Words allow you to follow and give directions and to use language precisely (e.g., "Identify the positional words in this sentence.")
  • Travel – To move from one place to another (e.g., "The car will travel around the box.")
  • Direction – The course or path on which something or someone is moving (e.g., "Note the direction in which you moved through the obstacle course.")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Need one to one assistance to recognize and define the positional words being introduced.
Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Have a grasp of beginning positional words.

Home child care providers may:

  • Introduce positional words that are also opposites to further solidify their meanings (up & down, back & front,  in & out).


Home child care providers may:

  • Introduce more positional words as their understanding increases (in back of, beside, across…).

Books Books
  • Up, Down and Around by Katherine Ayres (New York: Candlewick, 2008)

  • Ups and Downs: A Book of Positional Words by School Zone Publishing Company Staff (School Zone Publishing         Company, 2000)

  • Positional Words (Get Ready Book) by Barbara Gregorich, Joan Hoffman and Richard Pape (School Zone Publishing Company Staff, 1995)

Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Set up an obstacle course outside.  Have a kiddie pool that the children must wade through.  You can be much more creative and messy outside. 

Explore links Web Resources



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