Sorting Out Our Shoes

Submitting Organization: Erikson Institute

Grade Levels: PreK – 2nd Grade

Subject Area: Math

Standards Alignment: Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

CCSS K.MD3: Classify objects & Count the quantities. The activity calls for engaging children’s thinking and productive struggle to arrive at meaningful categories as well as to go from identifying which group has more but why that might be so.

Description of the Activity: Children place one shoe in a circle; the teacher facilitates a discussion in which the whole group agrees on 3-5 exclusive categories they can use to sort the shoes into sets. Categories might reflect shoe style, color, function – the final choice should come from the children not imposed by the facilitator.  To represent how many are in each set, children draw or literally place their shoes on a bar graph and then discuss the data, using questions such as, “What do you notice about how our shoes are the same and different?  What category has the most? the least? Why might that be?”

Discussion Questions:

Facilitating discussion of establishing categories:

  • What do you notice about how the shoes we are wearing today are the same or different?
  • You have had a good idea about a number of ways we could group our shoes so every shoe could fit in one category (Some of you suggested sorting by color or styler; many of you talked about sorting by the type of shoe).  Which one of these suggestions shall we use so that every shoe will go into one category or another?
  • Facilitating discussion of data
  • What do you notice about how our shoes are the same and different?  What might explain why one group is larger? What do you think we would see if we repeated this activity in a few months when the weather has changed?

Resources Needed:

  • The most important resource is completely at hand: the shoes on the children’s feet! Just as importantly children are very invested in their shoes.
  • A realia graph can easily be made by using masking tape on a shower curtain or on the classroom floor.  Photograph the results to refer to later.
  • To make a pictograph, have children draw their shoes on self-stick post-its and post on chart paper, reminding children to observe the base line.  You can save the pictograph or document it by a photo.
  • We have found it very effective to activate thinking by reading several children’s books such as Shoes, Shoes, Shoes, by Anne Morris or Whose Shoes Are These: A look at Workers’ Footwear, by L Salas.

Link to further resources: