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Numbers You Can Count On

Texture and counting meet creativity and expression as children model numbers and explore arithmetic.

  • Grade 1
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Organize students at a central place in the classroom such as the reading rug. Initiate a discussion focused on digits. What are students' favorite numbers? Why? Where do they find digits everyday? What is the difference between a digit and a number? How do they use digits and numbers everyday?
    2. Ask students to choose a favorite one-digit number. Let them know that they will each be making a 3-dimensional model of these favorite numbers. If possible, have a few 3-D models of digits prepared for them to view.
    3. Ask students to cover their work area with recycled newspaper. Distribute Crayola® Model Magic to each child. Demonstrate how to knead and roll it into a coil measuring approximately 3/4-inch (2 cm) in width. Allow time for students to experiment with the Model Magic. When satisfied with their work, they shape the coil into the desired numeral.
    4. Now it's time to individualize the digits. Invite students to create the same number of dents, holes, ridges, or impressions as the numeral represents. Encourage them to make impressions deep or high enough to feel. This can be accomplished with craft sticks, wooden spoons, and other found objects.
    5. To make contrasting inlays, students poke a hole with a pencil eraser, then drop a small Model Magic ball into the hole and press firmly.
    6. Make narrow, crosswise dents by pressing the blunt side of a plastic knife into the coil.
    7. Add contrasting strips of color by laying small coils of another color into the dents. Press firmly.
    8. Pinch Model Magic up to make ridges and bumps. Fill with small coils of another color, and pinch to hold in place.
    9. Provide time in the school day for students to share selected digit with classmates. Challenge students in the audience to think of addition or subtraction word problems that contain the digit being presented such as: "3 + 2 = 5" (sum is the digit presented); or, "Three geese walk up to a pond where two swans are swimming. The geese jump in the pond. How many birds are in the pond?"
  • Standards

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    MATH: Use addition and subtraction within 20 to solve word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions, e.g., by using objects, drawings, and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.

    MATH: Understand that the two digits of a two-digit number represent amounts of tens and ones.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Encourage students to create a set of digits from zero through nine. Read word problems to students that involve addition and subtraction. Students select the digits from their set that form the solution to the problem.

    Working in small groups, with the assistance of an adult, students compose original word problems involving addition and subtraction. Student groups read their problems to the class. Classmates select digits from their set that form the solution to the problems.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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