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String-Along Numbers

This cards-on-a-clothesline activity is a low-tech, high-touch activity for math beginners. Who’s ready to count and crunch some numbers?

  • Grade 1
    Grade 2
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Open a discussion with children about the role that numbers, or digits, play in their lives. Responses such as, "They tell you how many," or , "If you count in order, each number is one more than the one before it and one less than the one after it" are simple yet reveal a beginning understanding of what numbers can do. Share a read aloud with students focused on beginning number sense.
    2. Reveal to students that they will be creating a visual display of numbers, or digits, to work with in this lesson. Organize students into pairs or small groups. Distribute large index cards to each group. The number of index cards may be pre-determined by the teacher and dependent upon the students' skill level. You may wish to begin with 10-20 cards. Additional cards can be added later.
    3. Instruct students to write one numeral on each index card with Crayola® Gel Markers. Also ask students to draw the number of objects the numeral stands for. Students may make one circle, two triangles, and three squares, and so on. Remind groups that zero stands for no objects, which is a good place to begin counting.
    4. Tape a long yarn or laundry line to a wall, white board, or another safe place. With clothespins or other clips, attach the cards to the line in counting order. Ask groups to practice counting along their number lines.
    5. Now rearrange the numbers from highest to lowest. Or pick out even numbers, or odd numbers, and put them in order. Count by twos. Count forward and backward. How many other ways can you find to arrange your String-Along Numbers? Challenge each group to devise a unique counting activity. Then, begin the count!
  • Standards

    LA: Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

    LA: Read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the grade level text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

    LA: Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.

    MATH: Read and write numbers to 1000 using base-ten numerals, number names, and expanded form.

    MATH: Fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.

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

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: 12 Ways to Get to 11 by Eve Merriam; The Mission of Addition by Brian P. Cleary; Domino Addition by Lynette Long; Go Figure!: A Totally Cool Book About Numbers by Johnny Ball

    Students work in small groups create cards with addition, subtraction, and equality symbols. Students combine their number cards with the algorithm signs and equality symbols to create an accurate math equation. Students read the equation orally to classmates. Repeat as many times as students can create new equations.

    Adapt this lesson plant to the study of Roman Numerals. In place of Arabic numerals, students use Roman Numerals and create equations using addition and subtraction.

    Encourage students to investigate cultures that have used different number systems, such as the Mayans. Students prepare a presentation for classmates in order to share their research.


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