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

CME Group Community Foundation



Grab Bag Fun

Children will correctly count the number of objects representing the number on a card.

Content Area Standard Target
Number and Operations
  • Understand nembers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems
  • Count with understanding and recognizing “how many” in sets of objects
  • Connect number words and numerals to the quantities they represent, using various physical models and representations
  • Associate numbers with sets of objects up to 10
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Index cards marked with a number word and the numeral up to ten. (e.g. Three - 3)
  • Brown paper lunch bags. 
  • Markers or crayons
  • 55 – 60 small counting objects (pennies, blocks, dried kidney beans)
  • Book – How do Dinosaurs Count to Ten?  by Jane Yolen & Mark Yeague


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 be counting to ten and working with the numbers 1-10.
  2. Ask questions about counting to ten. For example:Who knows how to count to ten?”   “Using your fingers, can someone show me the number 3? 7?”
  3. Introduce the book, How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? 
  4. Say: Let’s look at the cover, what do you think is going to happen in this book?”
  5. Read the book.  Pause on pages (not all pages.  Just 2 or 3) and have the children identify the number of objects that the dinosaur is counting. For example: If the book reads “three toy trucks painted blue, red, and green,” then Ask: “Who can come up and count out the trucks?"
  6. Show children a paper bag containing an index card with a number on it. 
  7. Explain that each bag has a number in it.  (Each child will receive a bag with a number inside.  The child will pull out his/her number, look at his/her number, and then use the counters to show the quantity written on the card by placing the correct amount of counters in the bag.) 
  8. Review with the children the numerals and number words using the marked index cards.  Place each index card into a separate paper bag after you review.
  9. Model the activity.  Take a bag, draw out the number, read the number on the card.  “Who can help me with the number on my card?”  “4. That’s correct."  “Who can help me count out 4?” “What should I do with my 4 once I have counted them out?”  “Oh, put them in my bag.  Thank you.”  It also might be necessary to model one to one correspondence while counting.
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Provide the children with enough counters (55-60)  Spread the counters out so that the children have easy access to them.  Some children may want to count out their objects by putting them directly into their bag.  Other children may want to separate out their objects and count them again before placing them in their bag,
  2. Share and talk about the children’s findings.  Once the children are finished and feel confident about their work, have the children sit in a circle with their bags and give them the opportunity to share their work. 
  3. Ask the children what number they had in their bag.  “Can you show us how many counters represent that number?”
  4. Redirect a child whose counters do not represent their printed number.  For example, if a child says they have the number 3 and dumps out 5 counters from their bag, encourage the child to re-examine his process by involving the other children and going over the steps of the activity again.  “Johnny’s card says 3.  Johnny, using the counters from your bag, can you count out 3?”  “Let’s all help Johnny count out 3.”  It is important to continue to empower the children by having them realize they’ve made a mistake, we learn from our mistakes and it is okay to have others help us fix our mistakes. 
  5. Extend children’s vocabulary by asking the group to compare the amounts in their bags:
    • “Who has the bag with “the most” counters?
    • “Who has the bag with “the least amount” of counters?”
    • Have two children stand in the circle and compare the amounts in their bags.
      “Sally has 9 counters in her bag.  Billy has 4 counters in his bag” “Who has “more” counters in their bag?"
  6. Ask the group:
    • “Who has more counters than Billy.” 
    • “Who has less counters than Sally.” 

Additional Extensions

  • Older children can draw the numeral and the number word on their bag as well as symbols to represent the number in each bag.  They can use their card to help them with this activity.
  • The group can line up in sequential order according to the amount in their bag.  They can line up from the smallest to biggest number or vice versa.  Have them number off once they are in the correct order.
  • Increase the numbers to 11-20.
  • Mix up the colors of the counters (have red, blue & yellow blocks) and once the children have taken the correct amount of counters for their bag, using the various colors, have them compare the amount.  “I have more red blocks than yellow blocks”, “3 red blocks and 1 blue block and 2 yellow blocks equal 6 blocks.”
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • More than, less than, the same  Words used to compare quantity (e.g., "Sally has 9 counters.  Billy has 4 counters.  Sally has more counters than Billy.")
  • The most, the least – Words used to compare quantity (e.g., "Who has the most amount of counters? Who has the least amount of counters?")
  • Numeral – The symbol used to represent a number or "how many" (e.g., "The numeral '4' represents how many counters I have in my bag.")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not have one-to–one correspondence.
  • Not be able to sit in a circle listening to others for an extended period of time.
  • Not be able to count beyond 5.
  • Not yet recognize numbers.
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Pre-K Children may:

  • Want to write the number of counters on their bag and draw symbols to represent their number.
  • Want to compare their number to the numbers of other children.
  • Be able to work with numbers higher than 10.
  • Want to write out, using letters, their number on the bag.

Home child care providers may:

  • Provide assistance when children are counting, helping them with one-to-one correspondence.
  • Tell the toddler the number that is written on the index card inside their lunch bag.
  • Only use numbers 1-5.
  • Just write the numeral on the index card and not the word number.


Home child care providers may:

  • Use the extension activity suggested and have children draw symbols to represent their number or write the number word that represents their numeral.
  • Reinforce vocabulary by engaging the children in a dialogue about the amount of objects in their bag.
  • Have the children compare their amounts with other children.  Pair and share.  “Who has more counters?" “How many more counters?” “Who has the least amount of counters?”


Books Books
  • How do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (New York: Blue Sky Press, 2004)
  • Anno's Counting Book by Anno Mitsumasa (New York: Harperfestival, 1993)
  • Any simple counting book will do with this lesson.  The book needs to feed into the way a child thinks and identifies with the concepts of counting by ones to the number ten.


Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • This activity can be easily done outdoors.  Have the children bring their bags outside and ask them to collect the number of items (acorns, leaves, rocks) that represent the number on their index card in their bag. 


Explore links Web Resources

Both games develop sequential counting to 10.  Animated games that engage the child while developing number sense and problem-solving strategies.




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