Grade 1: The Very Hungry Caterpillar – A Math Task


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 CCSS1.OA.2 Solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20, e.g., by using objects, drawings, and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.

CCSS1.OA.5 Relate counting to addition and subtraction (e.g., by counting on 2 to add 2).

CCSS1.NBT.2 Understand that the two digits of a two-digit number represent amounts of tens and ones.


MP.1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

MP.3 Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

MP.4 Model with mathematics.

MP.7 Look for and make use of structure.


This Grade 1 lesson titled, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Illustrative Mathematics integrates ELA/Literacy with Mathematics through a Read Aloud of a literary text. Throughout lesson activities, students have the opportunity to: develop an understanding of the relationship between counting on and addition; build toward understanding of the place value system; engage with several Standards for Mathematical Practice. The focus of instruction is to have students learn to make sense of what is being asked and to persevere through multiple steps in order to solve a problem. Through repeated teacher Read-Alouds of the same text, students individually or in pairs are asked to take something concrete (the story), represent it physically (with the counters or unifix cubes), and then represent it symbolically as an equation.


Connecticut educators should be cautioned that this task supports developing conceptions of counting on and base-ten structure, and is thus appropriate early in the school year. Prior to teaching the lesson, teachers will need to thoroughly review the materials and make modifications or adjustments to meet the needs of their learners and to determine proper pacing. In order to carry out the lesson as planned, each student/pair needs: three ten-frames (see PDF for black line master), 30 counters or unifix cubes per pair of students, one small dry-erase board and dry-erase maker per pair of students. While formative assessment is ongoing, some type of assessment rubric should be created to provide sufficient guidance for interpreting individual student performance on the targeted standards.


This lesson is a good example of a task that is open ended with several possible correct answers and application in an engaging setting. The task encourages students to talk about each other’s thinking in order to improve their mathematical understanding. It targets the major work of the grade, providing an in-depth treatment of targeted content standards. The lesson develops students’ conceptual understanding through a real world task, brief exercises, questions, multiple representations and opportunities for students to represent their understanding. The task stimulates students’ interest and elicits discourse and mathematical thinking. Formative assessment is ongoing as teacher observes students’ models and listens to them share their thinking and strategies. A solution is provided to help and guide teachers to interpret student understanding and thinking.

Focus: Belongs to the major work of first grade.

Coherence: Builds on kindergarten work with addition.

Rigor: Conceptual Understanding: secondary in this task,

Procedural Skill and Fluency: secondary in this task,

Application: primary in this task