Math at Home Math Access for Teachers
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CME Group Community Foundation



What's In a Name?

Children will count, compare, contrast, and graph the number of letters in their names.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Number and Operations
  • Algebra
  • Measurement
  • Data Analysis and Probability
  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems
  • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems and processes of measurement
  • Understand patterns, relations, and functions
  • Formulate questions that can be addressed with data, and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them
  • Count with understanding and recognize "how many" in sets of objects
  • Sort, classify, and order objects by size, number and other properties
  • Connect number words and numerals to the quantities they represent, using various physical models and representations
  • Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the
    number of objects in another group
  • Directly compare two objects with a measureable attribute (letters in a name) in common, to see which object has “more of”/ “less of" the attribute, and describe the difference
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • The book, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
  • 5x8 Index cards
  • Colored markers
  • Easel w/ large chart graphing paper to record collected data


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 they are going to read a story about a little mouse who has a very unique name.  Explain that each of us has a special name and that they are going to use their names to solve some math problems.
  2. Ask the children about their names:
    • “What is special about your name?” 
    • “Is there someone else in your family who has the same name that you do?"
    • “Can you tell us anything about your name?”
  3. Explain that the one thing that all of our names have in common is that all of our names are composed of letters.  Explain that while we can all have a different amount of letters in our name all of our names are composed of letters.
  4. Say: “My name is Stephanie" (use your own name) and I have 9 letters in my name. Say:"S – t – e – p – h – a – n – i – e.”  While you spell out your name, hold up a finger to represent each of the letters in your name so that when you are finished spelling out your name, you are holding up 9 fingers.
  5. Distribute the index cards.  Give one to each child.  Ask them to print their name on the card.  Some children might need help with the spelling of their names or with the formation of the letters in their names.  For younger children, you can already have the child’s name printed on the index card and then ask the child to look at his/her name on the card.
  6. Ask the children what they notice about their names.  By asking this question you are looking for quantitative answers, “I have 3 letter S’s in my name,”  “My name has 4 letters.”  Later you will be analyzing the data supplied by the letters in each of their names.
  7. Introduce the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.  Explain that you are going to read a book about a little mouse with a big name.  Explain that Chrysanthemum loves her name until she starts school.  There are many themes imbedded in this book, the most obvious being about bullying and respect. There are many cross-curricular teaching opportunities as well, but for the sake of our math focus, try to keep the children’s focus on the length of the children’s name. Ask: “Have you noticed that the name Chrysanthemum has A LOT of letters?”,  “I wonder if it was difficult to learn how to spell Chrysanthemum?” 
  8. Read the book.  Pause when you come to the part of the book where the name is written out on an envelope. When book reads  “Chrysanthemum loved the way her name looked when it was written with ink on an envelope.  She loved the way it looked when it was written with icing on her birthday cake.” Say: “Let’s see just how many letters Chrysanthemum has in her name.  Ask: Can anyone make a guess before we start to count?”  As you count the letters, point to each letter, reinforcing one-to-one correspondence.  Say: “Wow!  13 letters in her name.  Ask: Do any of you have 13 letters in your name?  Can anyone think of a name that also has 13 letters?”
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Explain to the children that they are now going to investigate their own names.  Say: “Everyone look at your names." Ask: How many letters does your name have?”  Have the children write the number of letters on the other side of their index card so that the name is on one side of the card and the number of letters is on the other side.
  2. Categorize the children into groups according to the number of letters in their name.  Say: “Everyone who has 2 letters in their name, please stand up and sit in a group over here.” Repeat this process until all of the children are in a group.  There may be only one child in a group and you may not have any children for certain numbers (for example, you may not have any children who have 5 letters in their name).
  3. Chart their names.  On the graph paper on your easel (this activity also makes a nice bulletin board!), graph the children’s names according to the letters in their names. Title the graph, Our Name Graph. Across the bottom label with numbers going from 0 to the largest number in your class. Then, have the children come up as you call the numbers and tape their name going up the chart.  Say: “All of you who have 2 letters in your name, please come up with your index cards and place your card in the space above the number 2.”  Again, continue this until all of the children’s name index cards are up on the graph.
  4. Compare and examine the collected data.  Look at the graph and ask questions that use the vocabulary the most, more than, less than, the least, the same
    • "Whose name has the most letters?"
    • “Does David have more or less letters than Amy?”
    • “Which names have the same amount of letters?”
  5. Extend the Activity by identifying, counting and sorting by letters.  For example, you can count the number of vowels each person has in his/her name.  Or you could examine the amount of syllables each person has in his/her name.  Again, all of this data can be recorded and displayed in the classroom.  This is an activity that you can build upon as the children’s skills increase and it ties into many other subject areas.

Additional Extensions

  • Once the children are able to identify vowels within the alphabet, they can count, compare and record the number of vowels each person has in his/her name.
  • This activity is a wonderful introduction to Syllabication.  You can have the children clap out the number of syllables in their name and again, compare and record. 
  • This can also be a special Home Project.  Children can interview their parents, siblings and other relatives asking them the correct spelling of their names and then together, they can count the number of letters in each of their family member’s names.  The children bring this information back to school and construct a Family Tree and organize their family members in numerical order according to the amount of letters in their name.
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • More – A value that is higher or greater in number (e.g., "Sally has more letters in her name than Ted, Jane and Amy.")
  • Fewer – A value that is smaller in number (e.g., "Ed has fewer letters in his name than Sally.")
  • Greatest Amount – Largest amount; the one with the most (e.g., "Chrysanthemum has the greatest amount of letters in her name.")
  • Equal – To be the same in number or amount (e.g., "Jane and Noah have an equal amount of letters in their name.")
  • Numeral – The symbol used to represent a number of "how many" (e.g., "The numeral '5' represents how many letters there are in the name Brian.")
  • Graph – A diagram that exhibits a relationship, often functional, between two sets of numbers as a set of points having coordinates determined by the relationship
  • Data – Facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not know how to spell their own names.
  • Not have one-to-one correspondence.
  • Not be able to recognize all their numbers or letters.


Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Be able to identify vowels in the alphabet.
  • Be able to identify syllables within words.
  • Have a working knowledge of letters and how to form their letters and may be able to use invented spelling to write the names of family members and friends.

Home child care providers may:

  • Provide assistance when children are counting the letters in their name.
  • Write the number of letters that are in the child’s name on the back of their index card.
  • Help the child read and recognize letters in their name.


Home child care providers may:

  • Provide opportunities for the children to sort and count the letters in their name based on vowels and consonants.
  • Help the children to identify the syllabication patterns in their names by clapping out the beats in their names and allowing the children to notice that each of the beats is a syllable. 
  • Help the children to count the syllables in not only their names but in other objects in their environement.


Books Books
  • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (New York: Greenwillow Books, 2007)
  • Cristanemo by Kevin Henkes (New York: Greenwillow Books, 2008 [Spanish version of the book.  Opportunities to teach counting in Spanish])
Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections

This activity can be taken outside to a place where there are a variety of flowers.  The flower does not necessarily need to be a Chrysanthemum.

  • Looking at several types of flowers, children can count the petals on the flowers and graph that data. Rose has 16 petals, Daisy has 10 petals…. Compare and contrast the flowers using the recorded data.
  • Children can also sort flowers according to color and then graph that information.  There are 4 yellow flowers, 7 red flowers….. Compare and contrast the flowers using the recorded data.


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