Circles and Bears

In this lesson, children will roll dice to determine the number of circles and then the numbers of bears in those circles. After collecting that data, they will determine how many groups of bears they have for a total number of bears.

Math Lesson for:

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

Content Area:

Data Analysis and Probability
Numbers and Operations

Learning Goals:

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

  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers and number systems
  • Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize and display relevant data to answer these questions

Learning Targets:

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

  • Understanding meanings of operations and how they relate to one another
  • Computing fluently and making reasonable estimates
  • Using mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships
  • Formulating questions that can be addressed with data and collecting, organizing and displaying relevant data to answer these questions

Circles and Bears

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Dice
  • Recording sheet (Click on “Share this Lesson” to download and print a recording sheet.)
  • Counting bears

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.

  1. Explain that, today, we are going to a play a game called Circles and Bears. The game involves groups of circles and groups of bears and counting how many bears there are altogether.
  2. Explain that Circles and Bears is a one-person game and that it is not a game that a player can win or lose. The children will be playing against themselves.
  3. Model how to roll the dice. Say: “No CRAZY rolls!” Show the children what you mean by rolling the dice in a very exaggerated way across the table. Let the children try this once and then ask them why “Crazy rolls” would not be good for playing this game. Explain: “Dice rolls should stay on the table and in their own space so your dice do not get mixed up with other players’ dice and you can concentrate on playing the game and not spend all of your time retrieving the dice.”

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Introduce the game. This game can be introduced to the entire class. Use modeling and questioning to ensure understanding.
  2. Give each child a recording sheet. Explain that the seven boxes on the recording sheet will be used to record the seven turns that they will take and to record their answers. There are two rolls per turn. The first roll is to draw the circles and the second roll is to record the amount of bears that will go into each circle.
  3. Roll the die and draw the corresponding number of circles in box 1. If the child rolls a 4, draw 4 circles. Make sure that the circles are big enough to put the bears into, but not so big that they take up the entire recording box.
  4. On the same turn, roll the die and put the corresponding number of bears into each circle. If the child rolls a two, put two bears into each circle.
  5. After the circles and bears are recorded, the children will count the number of bears in all of the circles (e.g., if, on their first roll, they have four circles with two bears in each circle, they will record eight for the total number of bears).
  6. Continue playing until all of the boxes are filled. Once all of the boxes have been filled and all seven turns have been taken, the children should count the total number of bears that they have collected.
  7. After each child has had a turn to play the game, pose the following questions:
    • “What is the fewest number of circles that you can get in one turn?”
    • “What is the fewest number of bears that you can collect in one turn?”
    • “What is the greatest number of bears that you can collect in one turn?”
    • “What is the greatest number of circles that you can draw in one turn?”
    • “What would happen if there was a zero on the dice?”
    • “If I rolled a zero, how many circles would I draw?”
    • “If I had three circles and then rolled a zero, how many bears would I put into those circles?
    • Ask the children to explain their answers.

Additional Extensions

  • Ask the children to write the number equation that accompanies the picture. For example, if the child rolled four for circles and two for bears, then they would write: 2+2+2+2=8. Four groups of two equals eight.

Step 4: Teach math vocabulary.

  • Groups: Equal sets (e.g.,”How many groups of three bears do you have?”)
  • Equals: To be the same in number or amount (e.g.“Four groups of two bears equals eight bears.”)
  • Greatest: Largest amount; the one with the most (e.g.,”What is the greatest number of bears that you can collect in one turn?”)
  • Fewest: A small number, the opposite of many (e.g.,”What is the fewest number of bears that you can collect in one turn?”)

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not yet count beyond 10
  • Need to work on their fine-motor skills
Home child care providers may:
  • Use a die that has the numbers 1-3 on it. That way, when the children go to count the total number of bears, they will be reinforcing their one-to-one correspondence with numbers 1-10.
  • Transfer the playing board onto a bigger sheet of paper: a 12″x18″ sheet of paper should be large enough.
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Easily count from 1-36
Home child care providers may:
  • Have the children write the number equation that accompanies the picture. For example, if a child rolled four for circles and two for bears, then the child would write: 2+2+2+2=8.  Four groups of two equals eight.

Suggested Books

  • Each Orange Had 8 Slices (Counting Books) by Paul Giganti, Jr. (New York: Greenwillow Books, 1999)
  • How Many Legs? Learning to Multiply Using Repeated Addition by Kristine Lalley (New York: Powerkids Press, 2005)
  • One Is a Snail, Ten is a Crab: A Counting by Feet Book by April Pulley Sayre (Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick, 2006)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

Using chalk, make big circles on the pavement. Collect like items to be placed in the circles. Place the same number of items in each circle. Have the children identify the number of circles and the number of items in each circle: “We have three circles and three pails in each circle. How many pails do we have? We have three groups of three pails.” Change the number of circles and the number of items placed in the circles.

Web Resources

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