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More and Less Handfuls

Alignments to Content Standards: K.CC.A K.CC.B K.CC.C



  • A variety of manipulatives for counting
  • Student recording sheet (see setup)


On a sheet of plain paper write the following sentence frame at the bottom; I have ____ counters. I have _____ (more than/less than/ the same as) my partner. My partner has _____ counters. Copy one sheet per student.

Set out a variety of math manipulatives at each table group.

Have students work in pairs.


Each student grabs two handfuls of counters. The student combines his/her handfuls into one collection and then counts them. The student then draws and records the quantity on a student-recording sheet. Student partners then complete the sentence frame at the bottom of the page together, stating how many each person had and if they have more or less than their partner.

IM Commentary

  • If students are having a hard time with the quantity generated from two handfuls have them only grab one handful of counters to start with.
  • Watch the student’s counting strategies. Students should have an organized method for keeping track of items they have already counted. They may use a “pull-off” strategy, moving items from one side of the table to the other, or line them up in a straight line. If students are struggling give them a large paper plate and have them count the items by moving them onto the plate and check it by moving them off the plate.
  • Have the students’ progress to grabbing one handful each of two different types of counters in order to ensure they can combine unlike groups into a single collection.


  • Students should have a pictorial representation of the collection of counters as well as a completed sentence frame such as; “I have 9 counters. I have more than my partner. My partner has 7 counters.”
  • Begin with larger types of manipulative such as counting bears, cubes etc so that the handfuls do not contain as many items. Have students grab two handfuls from the same type of counters and then vary it so that they grab one handful each from two different types of counters. Progress to smaller counters like buttons or two color counters to increase the quantity that they are dealing with because students will be able to grab larger amounts.