Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Nuts for Counting

Carolyn Rosier


How many nuts in a peanut shell? Children observe, predict, and count in this nutty lesson featuring boiled or parched peanuts. But before they can eat, they must record the actual number of nuts on the provided worksheet.


The student collects, displays data, and makes generalizations (for example, determines number of pockets on 5 children; predicts how many 10 students or the whole class will have).

The student poses questions, seeks answers, draws pictures of observations, and makes decisions using information.


-Recording Sheet (See Associated File)
-Assessment Sheet (See Associated File)
-Parched or boiled peanuts (See Extensions if using boiled nuts)
-Number chart for children who need help with numerals
-Cups or bowls for peanuts and shells


1. Gather napkins, bowls and peanuts. You can buy peanuts already parched or boiled, or buy green peanuts and do a cooking activity with your class. (See notes in Extensions if using boiled nuts.)
2. Prepare a cup or bowl of peanuts for each child, putting 3 peanuts of varying sizes in each container.
3. Print out and make copies of the Recording Sheet provided in the Associated File, one per child with a few extras for children who need to start over.
4. Print and copy the Assessment Sheet (See Associated File) if you plan to use it.
5. Set out Recording Sheets, crayons, pencils, napkins and bowls for empty shells at each table.


1. Tell children, “We are going to do some nutty things for math today!”

2. Hold up a peanut and ask some of the following questions to provide background for the activity: “What can you tell me about this? What do we call it? What can we do with it? Where does it come from? Have you had these at home? Can you describe the outside for me? What is on the inside?”

3. Then call on one student and ask, “How many peanuts do you think are in this shell? What makes you say that?” Ask other children how many nuts might be in the shell until you get several different answers.

4. Introduce the term “prediction.” Explain that Mark predicts there are 3 nuts in the shell and Karen predicts there will be 2 nuts. Ask, “How can we find out for sure how many nuts are in this shell?” After getting the response “We can crack it open,” say, “That's a great idea, but before we check to see if our prediction is right, let's look at another nut.”

5. Then hold up another sized nut and ask, “What about this one? How does this nut look compared to the other nut? Is it bigger or smaller, shorter or longer? How many fat, curvy parts does it have? Would this shell have more nuts or less nuts than the other nut? How many nuts do you predict are in this shell?” Get children to use size and shape to make further predictions and comparisons until you think they understand.

6. Go back to the first nut and trace it on a Recording Sheet (See Associated File) that you have placed on the board.

7. Then get a prediction that the majority of the class agrees on. Write this number on the Recording Sheet saying, “This is where we will write the numeral that tells how many nuts we think will be in the shell when we open it.” Point to the number chart and find that numeral, reminding children that if they don't know how to write a numeral, they can look at the chart for help.

8. Then demonstrate how to crack open the peanuts. If children press along the seam, they will be more likely to separate the top and bottom halves. If your nut cracks well, hold it up and let children count the nuts in place. If it doesn't crack well, show children how to put nuts in their hand or on the paper to count them. Say, “Now we will count our nuts and see how many there really are!” Count and record the number actually in the shell in the correct box on the Recording Sheet. Explain that this is where we write the number that we counted in the shell, then point back to the prediction box and remind them that this is where we wrote the number we predicted or guessed would be in the shell.

9. Then say, “Let's draw how many nuts there really were up here in the top box where we traced our shell.” Demonstrate incorrectly. For example, draw 3 nuts if actual count was 2, and ask, “Did I make a set that matches my numeral? No? Oh, I drew too many. My number said 2 but my set shows 3. My numeral and my set don't match.” Correct the answer and tell children that once they are sure their set and their numeral match, they can color their peanuts to make them look like real peanuts.

10. If you are not saving the nuts for the extended activity, tell the kids that once they have written their number down, they can eat their peanuts!

11. Next ask children to look at the two numerals recorded. “Are they the same? Are they different? Did we make a good prediction? Which number is more/less? We thought there would be 3 nuts but there were only 2! Would you like to try again and see if we can make a better prediction this time?”

12. Repeat the process twice. Point out that the more we predict and compare our numbers to the peanuts' appearance, the better we get at predicting.

13. Explain to children that they have 3 nuts in bowls at the table. They can try predicting and counting on their own 3 times. Show them the bowls for empty shells. Then send them to do nutty math on their own as you circulate to make sure they get started and use the Recording Sheet correctly. Begin formative assessment once all kids are on the right track.


The teacher circulates during the activity, formatively assessing while she provides guidance and feedback. She looks for:
a. correct counting with one-to-one correspondence,
b. legible numeral formation, and
c. drawings of peanuts that reflect the actual number of peanuts the children find in the shells.
The teacher directs the children to collect data for one peanut, then to repeat the process, and encourages them to make generalizations and decisions using that information. (If you know the smaller shell had 2 nuts in it, can that help you make a prediction of how many nuts are in this longer shell?)

A more accurate assessment can be made of the higher-level thinking skills if the teacher spends a few minutes one-on-one, questioning children about their findings. If the teacher wishes to record her observations of the children's work, an Assessment Sheet is provided in the associated file.


1. This activity would best be done in small groups or with an adult to assist with each table of 5-6 children.
2. If using boiled peanuts, drain them well and refrigerate to dry out a little before giving them to students. Otherwise it will be “too juicy” an activity. Another option is to drain nuts and NOT have students place them on the paper to trace but, instead, just draw the outline of their nut as best they can.
3. If using parched nuts, you can have children save the nuts after counting and drawing them instead of eating them. These can be used to make peanut butter. Simply grind the nuts in a food processor, adding a little oil at a time to moisten and honey to sweeten. Serve on crackers.

Attached Files

This file contains the Assessment Sheet and the Recording Sheet.     FFile Extension: pdf

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