First Day Math & Literature Activity K- 5

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

The book, Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes is one my my all time favorite first-day-of-school stories to share with my students – no matter what grade level. The main character is Chrysanthemum, who is all excited about her first day of school until the other students start making fun of her name because it is soooo long. This makes her reluctant to go to school until everyone finds out their favorite music teacher has a long name (Delphinium) and is planning to name her new baby Chrysanthemum. A poignant story to help children develop a sense of empathy and compassion and realize that everyone’s name is special – no matter what it is or how long or short it is!

Math Connection Grades K-2

  • Letter and name recognition
  • Counting letters in names
  • Name graph with a variety of methods (paper graph, color tile or unifix cube graph, etc.)
  • Name grid art activity (see below)
  • Comparing name lengths

Math Connection Grades 3-5

  • Name graph – can use first, middle, and/or last names. To start, just have students write their name on a post-it-note and stick it on the board. Then rearrange into columns or rows according to how you are collecting your data. Or make a frequency table, line plot, percentage pie chart, etc.
  • Name grid art activity (see below). Review terms: row, column, grid, array.
  • Use some type of strategy to determine total number of letters in first names in the class (repeated addition, multiplication). Using the example graph, students could add 3 + (4 x 5) + (5 x 8), and so on. Let students think of the strategy though!
  • Determine most often and least often used letters.
  • Determine the mean, median, mode, and range using length of names.

Name grid art activity

  • Cut out a 6 x 6 square (from manilla 1″ graph paper works well)
  • Spell out your first name over and over until the whole grid is filled (return sweep L to R when going to next row). I usually require capital letters only so the entire letter stays within the square (lower case letters sometimes extend out of the square -g, j, p, q, y).
  • With a crayon or colored pencil, lightly color in each square which has the first letter of your name.
  • Students’ names with the same length will have a similar pattern. See samples below.
  • Mount on black background paper and display.
  • As an extension, have students cut a different size square to change the pattern.

    Enjoy your first day! Do you have a different first-day favorite story or activity to share here? Let us hear from you!


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