Cereal Sorting

In this lesson, children will sort loop cereal such as Fruit Cheerios or Fruit Loops by color and then make patterned bracelets.

Math Lesson for:

Toddlers/Preschoolers
(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:

Algebra
Numbers and Operations

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers and relationships among numbers and number systems
  • Understand patterns, relations and functions

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Counting with understanding and recognizing “how many” in sets of objects
  • Sorting, classifying and ordering objects by size, number and other properties
  • Recognizing, describing and extending patterns such as sequences of sounds and shapes or simple numeric patterns and translating from one representation to another
  • Analyzing how both repeating and growing patterns are generated

Cereal Sorting

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Chenille stems
  • Loop cereal such as Fruit Cheerios or Fruit Loops
  • Egg carton or muffin tin

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

Many educators wear “themed” jewelry on special occasions, such as spider earrings and a bat necklace for Halloween or snowflake earrings for the first snowfall. For this particular lesson, you can wear a beaded necklace that has a repeating pattern of colors and shapes.

  1. Show the children your necklace and ask them what they notice about the necklace. Ask: “What do you see? Yellow round beads, blue square beads and orange oval beads.” Explain that you made your necklace and that there was a pattern that you followed to create the necklace. Ask: “Can anyone recognize the pattern in my necklace?” Point out that there are two patterns in the necklace: a color pattern (yellow, blue, orange) and a shape pattern (round, square, oval). Explain that a pattern is a repeated design. “The pattern of my necklace is a yellow round bead, a blue square bead, orange oval beads and again, a yellow round bead….”
  2. Tell the children that they will be making their own patterned bracelets out of cereal. Let the children know that, while the cereal is yummy to eat, first they will be sorting the cereal by color and then using the cereal to create beautiful bracelets. After they are done with the activity, the children may eat their bracelets, if you deem this appropriate.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Break the children into groups of three or four. Give them an egg carton or a muffin tin and ask them to sort the cereal into the separate containers. This is also a great activity for developing fine motor skills. While the children are sorting the cereal into their containers, fold the tips of the chenille stems inward to make sure the wire does not poke the children.
  2. After the children are done sorting, give each child a chenille straw. Ask the children to thread the cereal onto the chenille stems in a pattern of green, green, orange, orange. Depending on the children, you can do patterns of A-B-A-B, A-A-B-B (like the given example), A-B-C-A-B-C or any other pattern, depending on how many colors are available in the cereal.
  3. When the children are finished threading the cereal, talk about the pattern and how it made the string look a certain way because of the pattern. During the discussion, add a purple bead and a red bead at the very end and ask the children if the beads that you just added match the rest of the pattern. Talk about how those two beads don’t follow the pattern and tell the children that you have decided that they need to be taken off.
  4. To make it a neat bracelet, simply wrap the chenille stem around the child’s wrist and twist the ends together. Now the children can finish up their fun learning activity with a great snack. The best thing about this snack is that it is portable and can be taken along for the fun.

Additional Extensions

  • Tell the children to create their own patterns for the bracelets. It is usually best for the children to create their patterns on the table before stringing it onto their chenille straws. That way, if they make an error or change their minds about the patterns, they can easily make adjustments without having to unstring and restring the loop cereal.
  • Create cards with patterns. For example, a card might have a purple-green-yellow-blue-green color pattern. Using the card as a guide, the children can create bracelets that replicate the color pattern.

Step 4: Teach math vocabulary.

  • Pattern: A repeated design or recurring sequence (e.g.,”The pattern of my necklace is a yellow round bead, a blue square bead, orange oval beads and again, a yellow round bead.”)
  • Sort: To separate and put (people or things) in a particular order (e.g., “Sort the cereal by color into the individual compartments.”)

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not be ready for patterns
Home child care providers may:
  • Allow the children to simply thread the cereal onto the stem. This activity alone provides fine motor skill and hand-eye coordination practice.
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Already grasp simple patterns
Home child care providers may:
  • Have the children create their own patterns for the bracelets. It is usually best for the children to create their patterns on the table before stringing them onto the chenille straw. That way, if they make an error or change their mind about the pattern, they can easily make adjustments without having to unstring and restring the loop cereal.
  • Create cards with patterns. For example, a card might have a purple-green-yellow-blue-green color pattern. Using the card as a guide, the children can create bracelets that replicate the color pattern.

Suggested Books

  • Pattern by Henry Arthur Pluckrose (New York: Scholastic Library Publishing, 1995)
  • Pattern Fish by Trudy Harris (Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Pub Group, 2007)

Music and Movement

  • There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly” by Simms Taback. The growing pattern changes from one value to another in a predictable manner (ABA-ABAA-ABAAA)  www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiESiO6tLM8

Outdoor Connections

The children can collect different types of leaves and sort, categorize and create patterns using the leaves that they have collected. Glue the leaves onto a piece of construction paper in the pattern that the children have created. They can create patterns by leaf color, type (maple, oak) or size.

Web Resources

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