Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Montessori-Inspired One Fish, Two Fish Math Activities

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now

Montessori-Inspired One Fish, Two Fish Math
Valentine's Day is over, and I'm already starting to think about Read Across America Day and Dr. Seuss' birthday on March 2. Many Montessorians, especially eclectic Montessorians like me, like to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday.

Dr. Seuss books were always a favorite with my children, and I still love Dr. Seuss books even though my children are now adults. I was excited to find two free math printables that work well for creating hands-on math activities to go along with the fun Dr. Seuss book One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

*Amazon affiliate*

One Fish, Two Fish Addition Activity 

The first printable is One Fish, Two Fish, Equals 3 Fish from Dual Kinder Teacher. This is a great printable for a hands-on addition activity for kindergarteners and preschoolers who are ready for a concrete introduction to addition.

Preparing a One Fish, Two Fish Addition Tray
1 Fish 2 Fish Addition Tray

Materials (and preparation tips):

  • One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. For an activity like this, I'll typically stand the book on the shelf next to the activity tray.
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Equals Three Fish printable
  • Materials for printing, cutting, and laminating printables (Thick glossy photo paper is fine to use for printing instead of laminating if you'll be using the activity at home and don't expect heavy use.)
  • 8 Goldfish crackers for the activity
  • Container of Goldfish crackers for snack. I used whole-grain Goldfish to make them as nutritious as possible.
  • Activity tray. I found the inexpensive tray in the photo at the top of this post at my local supermarket last Easter.
  • A small container for 8 goldfish
  • You’ll need a low shelf or shelves for the activity trays in your classroom or home where the children can easily reach them, allowing for freedom of choice in their activities. Activity trays on shelves are wonderful ways to have activities available when children have an urge to repeat an activity or are drawn to an activity because of the needs of a sensitive period.
  • Especially if you have more than one child, it’s helpful if you have a few rugs in the room so a child can lay out the materials for an activity on a rug on the floor. The rug is helpful for defining the child’s workspace. Rugs can be rolled up and stored in a container in a corner of the room.
Presenting the Activity (One Idea)

One Fish Two Fish Addition Activity

  • If you’re presenting to a large group, go to the rug container, get a rug, and roll it out on the floor in front of you. For an individual child or small group, it’s helpful to use a rug if you’re presenting an activity on the floor.
  • I'd bring the book to the rug and read that first.
  • Go to the shelf where the activity tray is located, pick up the tray with both hands, and carry it to your rug or to a table.
  • For a large-group presentation in a preschool, generally the children will be seated in a circle. Present the activity facing toward the group. If you’re presenting to an individual child, have the child sit to your left if you’re right-handed so that you don’t block the child’s view with your arm.
  • Lay out the numerals 5-8 along the top of the rug or table, starting at the left and working to the right.
  • Lay out the addition fishbowls in mixed order below the larger numbered fishbowls.
  • Choose an addition fishbowl and read the equation.
  • Count out the correct number of Goldfish on each addend. When you have the sum, read the equation with the answer: "2+3=5."
  • Pour the Goldfish back into the blue container, and place the fishbowl equation under the correct answer.
  • In Montessori education, activities are presented slowly with precise movements. As few words as possible are used. In another preschool environment, you may want to adapt the presentation according to your own teaching style.
  • Often at this point in a group presentation, I’ll ask someone in the group if they’d like to put the Goldfish on another fishbowl. I might go around the group giving the children turns. With an individual child, I'll let the child join in when he or she feels ready.
  • There's a built-in control of error with this activity because there will be exactly 6 cards under each numbered fishbowl if the activity is completed correctly. You could tell the children there will be 6 cards under each numbered fishbowl at the end.
  • I would probably tell the children that they could take a specified number of Goldfish from a container on the shelf near the activity when they've completed their activity. I'd also have another container with Goldfish for snack. Again, I'd tell the children how many Goldfish they could each take. You could have the specified number on each container if you wish.
  • When you’ve finished presenting the activity, put the activity away on the shelf. Always show how to clean up and put away an activity when you first present it. If you had a rug out for the activity, roll the rug up and put it away.
One Fish, Two Fish Counting Activity

One Fish Two Fish Counting Tray
For younger children or those still working on counting objects 1-6, I created a Montessori-inspired activity tray using the 1 Fish 2 Fish Interactive Printable Placemat from The obSEUSSed Home Librarian. (There's also an addition version you could use.)
Preparing a One Fish, Two Fish Counting Tray

Materials (and preparation tips):

  • One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss (if you don't already have it on the shelf)
  • 1 Fish 2 Fish Interactive Printable Placemat
  • Materials for printing, cutting, and laminating printables (Again, thick glossy photo paper is fine for home use if you'll be using the activity at home and don't expect heavy use.)
  • 21 Goldfish crackers for the activity
  • A small container for 21 Goldfish
  • Container of Goldfish crackers for snack.
  • Activity tray. I found the inexpensive wooden tray in the photo at a hobby store.
  • Tweezers, strawberry huller, or child's chopsticks (optional) for transferring the Goldfish. You can add a tweezers, etc., to transfer the Goldfish to add a practical life activity for fine-motor coordination. This isn't essential, but it's especially nice for older preschoolers who would like to do the activity but don't need practice counting.
Presenting the Activity
One Fish Two Fish Counting Activity
  • I'd read the book and use a similar presentation to the One Fish Two Fish Addition except that I'd probably count out the Goldfish into each fishbowl rather than having the children take turns.
  • This activity has a control of error because there are exactly enough Goldfish for each of the fishbowls.
Montessori-Inspired Hop on Pop Language TraysPup and Cup Activity Using Printable from
At Living Montessori Now, I have a post from last year (Dr. Seuss with a Touch of Montessori) with links to free Hop on Pop language printables and ideas for creating activity trays.
I also have a Dr. Seuss Unit Study Pinterest board with Dr. Seuss activities of all types and for a number of levels.

President's Day Activities

Montessori-Inspired Penny Polishing Science Tray

In you're looking for Montessori-inspired activities for our closest holiday, I have a post with Montessori-Inspired Activities Teaching about Money and Presidents.

Have fun! :)


Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. She is now a Montessori writer who lives in Colorado Springs with her husband of 36 years and their cat of 10 years. She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

Linked to AfterSchool Linky Party, Living Life Intentionally Linky Party, The Mommy Club Resources and Solutions at Milk and Cuddles and Crystal & Co. , Thrifty Thursday, Fun Stuff Fridays, Kitchen Fun and Crafty Friday Link Party, Preschool Corner, Show-and-Share Saturday, Link & Learn, The Sunday Showcase at Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas and Classified: Mom, What's on the Tray Wednesday, Everyday Math Play at Teach Preschool, Dr. Seuss Link-up at RainbowsWithinReach, and Virtual Book Club for Kids.


  1. These are great, thanks! We are doing a Dr. Seuss inspired week next week, and I'm excited to have these resources.

    1. Thanks, Allison! I'm such a Dr. Seuss fan, and I was excited to find the printables. I'm adding more to my Pinterest page as I find them. Your Dr. Seuss week sounds great! :)

    2. Thanks Deb! I'm going to go check out your Pinterest board now. I have a feeling I'm going to have more ideas than time for next week. ;)

    3. The number of amazing resources available online is truly mind-boggling. I can't believe how many more resources I find now than just six months ago! Have fun! :)

  2. These are fantastic. They look so nice and organized- lol. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for your kind comment! One of the Montessori principles is for materials (and the school or home environment in general) to be as attractive and orderly as possible. I'm still working on my organization, although I do well if I follow Montessori principles for my own life. My adult kids, who were Montessori children, are both more organized than I am! :)

  3. I love all these activities! Thanks for linking to my printable fish placemat. I like your ideas to use it with 21 fish and tweezers. I also like your Pup in Cup tray, my toddler would love that right now.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Victoria! And thanks for generously sharing your wonderful printables! I'll look forward to seeing what you do for Dr. Seuss's birthday this year! :)

  4. Thank you for sharing your tips and strategies for presenting these activities to children.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I love how much easier it is to prepare activities with the awesome printables and resources available online. For a drawing-challenged person like myself, I had to spend so much time preparing activities pre-Internet. I probably have way too much fun with it all now! :)

  5. I love these activities, Deb! How do you store all the "stuff" - beautiful trays, containers, etc! I am "critiqued" from time to time by my husband about how much "stuff" I have for music classes (he has other words for it) - but you and I know how important the visual picture is to learning! I look forward to your blogs!

    1. Thanks, Miss Carole! That's a good question. I wish I were better at organization than I am. I should get my adult kids who were Montessori children to help me finish sorting through our homeschool closet. (I've sold and donated a lot of our homeschool materials, but I'm saving some of the best for when I have grandkids!) My son does the most amazing job of organization ... put up floor-to-ceiling shelves and thoroughly organized our garage, hallway closet, and furnace room storage areas when he was in high school.

      At the moment, I use inexpensive plastic 6' tall shelves in my homeschool closet (a walk-in closet in the bedroom that was our homeschool classroom and is now my office). I stack the items that can be stacked neatly on shelves and use plastic storage containers for smaller items and items that can't be stacked. It always seems to be a work in progress, though! ;)

  6. Thanks for using and linking my printable, I was so excited to see it on your blog!
    I'm loving all the ideas you post :)
    Dual Kinder Teacher

    1. Thanks for your kind comment ... it's my pleasure! I really appreciate that you're so generously sharing your awesome printable. It was great fun putting together an activity tray with it. I always think of how much more difficult it was to prepare activities for my Montessori school in the early 1980s when I didn't have access to lovely free printables like yours! :)

  7. Always love your ideas and use of materials. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks so much! I love what you share at your blog, too! :)

  8. I LOVE the Pup in a Cup idea...perfect for teaching those position words! I bet my four year old could read the words and my two year old could place the dog.

    1. Thanks, Helen! That's a great idea ... I love collaborative learning and children of different ages working together. My kids grew so close from their homeschooling/working together and still are very close at 21 and 26! :)

  9. I'd love to have you share this with our readers for our Fun Stuff Fridays link up.

  10. These are so fun, Deb!! And, as always, the way you present them is so appealing. With my Boogie, presentation never lasts very long, but I do try to make things look nice for the first time he sees them. Dr. Seuss books are still a little long for him, I think, but I keep trying. He likes the shorter board book versions but rarely stays interested the whole time in the original ones. Thanks for sharing at WOTT!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Sierra! Your son still has plenty of time to fall in love with Dr. Seuss ... my adult kids don't want me to part with our Dr. Seuss books! :)

  11. I LOVE the fish activity - I think we will do that for our Seuss theme next week! Thanks for linking up at TGIF - see you tomorrow =-)

    1. Thanks, Beth! I love what you're doing with Dr. Seuss, too ... your printable pack is amazing! See you tomorrow! :)

  12. Thanks so much, Jill! I just got caught up pinning some of the great ideas at your blog. I'll plan to link up with your next Kitchen Fun and Crafty Friday Link Party! :)

  13. What a great post! I love how you took Dr. Seuss printables and created Montessori inspired trays out of them! My favorite is the One Fish, Two Fish Addition Tray. I pinned this idea and shared it in my Dr. Seuss High Five blog post and linked back to you. Thank you so much for showing how to prepare these activities and present them...this is so helpful!

    Criss-Cross Applesauce

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comment, Lisa! And thanks for pinning my post and linking to me in your post ... I really appreciate it! :)

  14. Just featured this on our Kitchen Fun and Crafty Friday link party... Feel free to stop by and grab our Featured Button!

    1. Thanks so much, Jill! How exciting that my post was the most-viewed link! :)

  15. Wow these are such great activities! Thanks for sharing!!


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