K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will learn number combinations to equal five.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

60 minutes


  • 5 green and 5 blue small craft pom-poms per student
  • handout with a picture of a bed with five pillows on it (See attached example.)
  • chart paper with the poem “The Little Caterpillars” by Beth Deyton written on it
  • 1 Popsicle stick per child
  • glue
  • very small movable craft eyes
  • black construction paper
  • magic markers
  • optional: Make a poster sized picture of the bed. Stick a small piece of Velcro on each pillow and a small piece of Velcro on 5 green and 5 blue pom-poms. This will be your display bed to teach from.


  • Introduce the poem “The Little Caterpillars” to the children.
  • Count up to the number five different ways with the children (clapping each number, snapping fingers, etc.)


  1. Gather the children together in a large group. Read together the poem “The Little Caterpillars.” Ask the children several questions to lead into today’s math discussion about number combinations. Examples:
    • Can anyone tell me what these caterpillars are doing? (sleeping)
    • What colors are these caterpillars? (green and blue)
    • How many baby caterpillars are there in the poem? (5)
  2. Count up to the number 5 with the children. Tell the children that today the number 5 is going to be a very special number because they are going to learn how to combine two numbers to equal 5.
  3. Briefly discuss what “combine” means (to put together). Use examples that the children can easily relate to like making a milkshake and putting together the milk, ice cream, sugar, etc., or making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
  4. Next, go back to the poem and ask the children how many of the caterpillars are green (3). Ask, “How many are blue? (2). Say to the children, “3 green caterpillars plus 2 blue caterpillars equals 5 caterpillars altogether.”
  5. Show 3 green pom-poms and 2 blue pom poms on the display bed. Also, write 3+2=5 on the black board. Read this number sentence together.
  6. Ask the children if they can think of two different numbers that they could put together, or combine, to equal 5 (4+1, 0+5, etc.).
  7. Have volunteers come up and show these different number combinations on the display bed. Repeat poem substituting the new numbers.
  8. Do several examples together, each time repeating poem and writing number sentences on the board.
  9. After children have a clear understanding of combining two numbers to equal five, have them go back to their seats and pass out to each child a bed workmat and 5 green pom poms and 5 blue pom poms. Give students time to explore number combinations on their own.
  10. Next, do some team work. Divide children into groups of five. Have one person from each group call out a number sentence that equals five. Each person in that team will show this number sentence with their pom poms. Each person in a team will in turn call out a different number sentence.
  11. To close this activity, have children make a long caterpillar resting on a stick. Pass out to each child a popsicle stick. Have them write with a magic marker a number sentence that equals 5 on one side of the popsicle stick. Then they will turn the stick over and show this number sentence by gluing down the appropriate pom poms. Have them add eyes and little antennae cut from black construction paper.


Student learning will be evaluated based on students correctly creating number sentences called out by teammates, and by creating a caterpillar on a stick whose colors match a number sentence that equals five on the back of the stick.

Supplemental information


This activity would fit well in a unit study about butterflies. Also, if you do not have time to make the display bed, you could draw a bed on the board and use colored chalk (green and blue) to show the caterpillars on the pillows. You could also use an overhead projector to show the bed and use transparent green and blue colored circles. This activity can also be adapted to fit other number combinations by drawing more or less pillows on the bed.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Kindergarten

        • Counting & Cardinality
          • K.CC.4Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities; connect counting to cardinality. When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only...
          • K.CC.5Count to answer “how many?” questions about as many as 20 things arranged in a line, a rectangular array, or a circle, or as many as 10 things in a scattered configuration; given a number from 1–20, count out that many objects.
        • Operations & Algebraic Thinking
          • K.OAT.1Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings1, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.
          • K.OAT.3Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 1

  • Goal 1: Number and Operations - The learner will read, write, and model whole numbers through 99 and compute with whole numbers.
    • Objective 1.01: Develop number sense for whole numbers through 99.
      • Connect the model, number word, and number using a variety of representations.
      • Use efficient strategies to count the number of objects in a set.
      • Read and write numbers.
      • Compare and order sets and numbers.
      • Build understanding of place value (ones, tens).
      • Estimate quantities fewer than or equal to 100.
      • Recognize equivalence in sets and numbers 1-99.