So now that my kindergartners have been introduced to the whole concept of math problem-solving notebooks, it's time to start tackling the math curriculum. Week 3 introduces **sorting and classifying by attributes**. This is one of the easiest units to convert to the problem-solving model. I really just do the same activities I did before, I just pose them in the form of a problem.

**Day 1**

This purpose of this first problem is to get the kids thinking and talking about attributes. To do this, I have collected a big basket of balls--yes, balls! I have all different colors and sizes--big balls, little balls, glittery balls, bouncy balls, squishy balls..

OK...are you laughing yet? Because I can hardly keep a straight face typing this. Seriously, though--can you think of a better way to get kids engaged? The balls are perfect, because they come in all different colors and sizes.

I have collected these balls over the years. I get them at the dollar store, party stores, Target, Walmart, kids even give them to me! If you don't have, or particularly want a giant collection of balls in your room, you can just have the kids each bring in a ball from home. Make sure you keep them all week--there are all sorts of sorting activities you can do with them.

So, I have each child draw and write words about their balls. The drawings are usually pretty easy--most kinders can draw a circle at this point (another reason I love the balls!) Encourage them to add the details--like the color, or pattern of their ball. Because most kindergartners will have very rudimentary spelling skills at this point, you will probably have to do a lot of dictation. But don't stress if you cannot get to everyone--it is much more important to **talk** about the attributes at this point.

When everyone has finished, bring the kids to the rug for **mathematician's chair**. Have them bring their journals. Ask the children to tell you the words they used to describe their balls and write them on a chart paper.

Once you have completed a good list of words, introduce the word attribute--a characteristic used to describe an object. Choose one word from the list. Decide as a class what attribute that word describes. Here, we started by choosing the word *small*, and decided it described *size*. Then we circled all of the other words that described size.

We then transferred those words to a separate chart. Originally, I would not have had the other attributes (like color, texture...) listed on the chart. We would come up with those words and add them together as a class.

For example, we would have chosen another word from the list, like red, and decided it described color. Then we would have circled all the other color words and made a column for them on the attribute chart.

As we transfer words over to the attribute chart, we may think of other words we had not initially thought of, i.e. more color or size words. We add those words as we think of them. We also leave the chart up all week so we can add to it or refer back to it when needed. Color, size and shape are definitely the most common attributes (shape is a given for balls--most are round), but your class can add the categories that are appropriate for your balls (or for whatever you're working with).

We revisit the basket of balls throughout the week during Math Warm-Ups. We compare the balls and sort the balls into different groups.

Even though my class uses balls for this initial lesson, you could use anything that has a variety of attributes to explore--buttons, toys, etc.

**Day 2**

My mystery box is simply a collection of small objects from around the room--pencils, erasers, small toys, blocks, Lego's, etc. Again, you are focusing on getting the kids to recognize and verbalize the attributes of the objects. But this time, you are taking it a bit further by having the kids compare 2 objects.

Again--week 3 notebooks are probably going to be a mess. Encourage them to do as well as they can on their pictures and to include as many details as possible. If they can write words, super! If they can't, take dictation. If you can't get to everyone, again--no worries. It's the discussion that's important!

For **mathematician's chair**, bring them to the rug. Call on several children to explain how their objects are the same and how they are different. It might sound a little like this:

*My pencil and ruler are the same because they are both long. But they are different because the pencil is yellow and the ruler is green.*

*My objects are the same, because they are both blue. But this one is a pencil and this one is a button.*

My objects are the same because they are both rectangles. But the eraser is big and the lego is small.

Take this opportunity to add any additional words to the attribute chart!

**Day 3**

So, today, the actual **sorting **begins. I make a big scene and say that somebody snuck in the room overnight and mixed up all the math tools, or manipulatives (me!) And then I simply ask them to help me organize them.

I do not model how to sort the manipulatives, and I do not give them any rules. I don't necessarily want to *just *see all the like manipulatives grouped together. However, that is what the kids will naturally do (and I do want to know that they *can* do it).

In order to encourage some more divergent thinking, I might say, "Now that the math manipulatives are all messed up anyway, I was thinking of organizing them a different way. Does anyone have any good ideas?" Here, you can see this little girl sorted by color.

You can learn so much about kids and their mathematical thinking through this problem. How do they organize the manipulatives--in lines, in groups? Do they make sub-groups, i.e. sort their bugs into specific kinds--butterflies, caterpillars, etc. Really talk to the kids while they are sorting and get them to verbalize their thinking!

Notice the papers the kids are sorting on. I use these mats a lot--they are laminated with their names. I take a picture when they are done sorting, print them and glue the picture in their math notebooks!

For **mathematician's chair**, I have the kids take a gallery walk. Half the class circulates around the room and the other half explains how they sorted. Then we switch. Easy-Peasy!

**Day 4**

Today is a replay of Day 3 with buttons instead of manipulatives. Remember--do not model how to sort the buttons. If they get stuck, ask them to show you a button they like. Ask why they like it and then see if they can find more like it. Challenge the kids by asking if they can find a way to sort their buttons that is different from anyone else at their table. They love a challenge!

Again--I take pictures of their sorts to glue in their math notebooks. For **mathematician's chair**, we take another gallery walk.

**Day 5**

On Day 5, I want to see if the kids can sort objects by one attribute, and then mix the same group of objects up and sort them by a different attribute. I take 2 pictures for each kid and glue them both in their math notebooks, and we take another gallery walk for mathematician's chair.

At the end of this lesson, I read The Button Box by Margarette S. Reid. I used to read it before we sorted buttons, but that gives the kids ideas on how to sort, and I want them to think of idea themselves. They can try the ideas in the book when we sort buttons again during math warm-ups.

another idea that I use is sorting caps, soda caps, bleach bottle caps, medicine caps...milk caps...I usually send home a note for families to send in caps a month before we start the unit, so I have about 25 per table.

Posted by: Susan Greear | 12/28/2010 at 10:23 AM

I am student teaching in a Kindergarten class right now, and I just have to tell you- you just inspired me to KEEP TEACHING KINDERGARTEN!! You just made ME want to sort!! Thank you thank you so much, you are an incredible teacher.

Posted by: Chrissy | 11/05/2011 at 01:56 PM

I have a question. Are the math questions such as, "Can you sort these buttons more than one way?" printed on a chart tablet? I noticed there is a border around them and just wondered if each child gets a question paper or if it is a big paper for the whole class to see.

Thanks so much for your ideas!

[email protected]

Posted by: Deborah Winegar | 02/11/2012 at 08:28 AM

I'm curious about the previous question, too! Do you type the questions onto labels and put these into your mathematicians' books prior to them working on the inquiry? MANY thanks for your site!

Posted by: Leeanne | 09/23/2012 at 11:27 PM

Had Brainy Ball Wednesday today and had so much fun with your activities. Thank you!!

Posted by: Molly | 01/15/2014 at 09:10 PM

I want to know the reasons why children are involved in sorting in mathematics

Posted by: Bright | 10/28/2016 at 06:19 AM

I love, love, love your ideas. I could stay on this website for.ev.er.

Posted by: JENNIFER | 08/31/2017 at 11:27 PM