Jack and the Beanstalk

In this lesson, children will estimate and then measure how many beans fit in the giant's hand and compare it to how many beans fit in their own hands.

Math Lesson for:

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

Content Area:

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
  • Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates
  • Understand patterns, relations and functions
  • Analyze change in various contexts
  • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems and processes of measurement

Learning Targets:

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

  • Counting with understanding and recognizing “how many” in sets of objects
  • Connecting number words and numerals to the quantities that they represent, using various physical models and representations
  • Using a variety of methods and tools to compute, including objects, mental computation, estimation, paper and pencil and calculators
  • Sorting, classifying and ordering objects by size, number and other properties
  • Describing qualitative and quantitative change
  • Understanding how to measure using nonstandard and standard units
  • Selecting an appropriate unit and tool for the attribute being measured

Jack and the Beanstalk

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • The book, Jack and the Beanstalk (there are many versions to choose from)
  • Red kidney beans (two bags should be more than enough for this lesson)
  • Copies of a large handprint that represents the giant’s hand
  • Paper and pencil for tracing children’s hands.

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. Ask the children if they have ever heard the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk. Ask: What do they remember about the story?
  2. Ask who was bigger, Jack or the giant? (The giant) Ask: “How do you know the giant was bigger than Jack?”
  3. Explain that the children are going to use beans to measure the giant’s hand and their own hands and see whose hand is bigger and by how much.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Read the book, Jack and the Beanstalk.
  2. Compare the giant’s size to that of the children.  Ask: Who is bigger?  Who is smallerExplain to the children that they are going to use beans as a tool to measure the giant’s hand.
  3. Ask the children to estimate how many beans they think it will take to fill the giant’s hand.
  4. After covering the giant’s hand with beans, count the number of beans by putting the beans in piles of 10 and then counting the piles.
  5. Individually, ask the children to estimate how many beans they will need to cover their own hands. Trace each child’s hand and then tell the children to glue the beans to their hand tracings and then count how many beans they needed to fill their own hand tracings.

Additional Extensions

  • Use the beans to measure height and width. Ask: “How many beans tall is the hand? How many beans wide is the hand?”
  • Compare, using subtraction, how much “bigger” the giant’s hand is than their own. Then tell the children to compare their own hand sizes. “My hand is 14 beans larger than her hand.”
  • Have the children practice counting the beans by twos, tens and other amounts as appropriate.

Step 4: Teach math vocabulary.

  • Estimate: To make a guess or rough calculation, often based on rounding (e.g.,”Estimate how many beans you think it will take to fill the giant’s hand.”)
  • Bigger than: Of considerable size in comparison (e.g.,”The giant’s hand is bigger than my hand.”)
  • Smaller than: Diminished in size compared to an object that is larger (e.g.,”His hand is smaller than my hand.”)
  • Compare: To identify the similarities and differences between two things based on one or more attributes (e.g.,”Compare the two hands. Notice whose hand has more beans.”)
  • Measure: Use of standard units to find out size or quantity in regard to length, width, height, area, mass, weight, volume, temperature and time (e.g.,”Let’s measure how many beans we will need to fill the giant’s hand.”)

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Have difficulty with one-to-one correspondence
  • Have difficulty making groups of 10
Home child care providers may:
  • Assist in counting out the beans with the child
  • Model what a group of 10 looks like
  • Tell the children to count out the amount of beans that they need to fill their hand tracings before they glue the beans down
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Possess working knowledge of one-to-one correspondence
  • Easily count and group objects into sets of 10
Home child care providers may:
  • Use beans to measure how many beans tall the giant’s hand is or how many beans wide the hand is
  • Have children compare, using subtraction, how much “bigger” the giant’s hand is than their own
  • Tell the children to compare their hand sizes. “My hand is 14 beans larger than her hand.”

Suggested Books

  • Jack and the Beanstalk by Steven Kellogg (New York: HarperCollins, 1997)
  • How Many Seeds In A Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian. Karas (New York: Swartz & Wade, 2007)
  • Measuring Penny by Loreen Leedy (New York: Square Fish, 2000)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

  • Take this activity outdoors and measure various objects mentioned in the book, Jack and the Beanstalk. We are using beans in this lesson because they go with our Jack and the Beanstalk theme, but you can use any item to measure. Have the children measure the height of a tall plant or an actual beanstalk. The children can measure the width of a tree or the circumference of a tree and the height and width of a large leaf or a tall flower. Have the children guess how many beans tall they think the object will be and then measure to see if they are correct.
  • Grow beanstalks. Take time to observe how beans grow and measure the plants each day as they grow. A simple way to plant beans is to use cotton balls, water, plastic baggies, a bowl of water and lima beans. Before introducing the activity to the children, soak the lima beans overnight to speed up the process. Tell the children to dip their cotton balls into water and place them in their baggies. They should use enough cotton balls to fill the bottoms of their baggies. Next, tell the children to add lima beans to their baggies. Remind the children that the beans will need space to grow and four or five days to sprout. Once the children have finished adding their cotton balls and beans to their baggies, close up the baggies and tape them to a window (make sure the baggies are sealed tightly so that they stay moist). Wait and see what happens. Talk about the growth of the beans as they start to shoot out some sprouts.

Web Resources

  • This interactive game asks children to estimate the height of an object using a variety of nonstandard units of measurement, just as Curious George measures himself with licorice whips on the TV show. The Man with the Yellow Hat then counts out loud to see if the estimate is correct. This will give children practice in counting, as well as in testing a simple hypothesis. pbskids.org/curiousgeorge/games/how_tall/how_tall.html
  • Dinosaur Train gives children the opportunity to guess the length, height, etc. of various dinosaurs and other objects with nonstandard tools.
  • Children learn how to use a ruler to measure items in inches and/or in centimeters. www.funbrain.com/measure/

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