Laundry as math

We're working on sorting in math as a prelude to graphing. Yesterday we sorted shapes by color, shape, and size. Today I wanted to bring in something more "real".

So I brought in my laundry.

We started out math class by grouping the students and having them guess the sorting rule: wearing pink, wearing jeans, shirts with pictures, shirts with buttons, long hair, etc. It's fun to watch them try to figure out the rule. Then I brought out a basket full of clothes and told them I needed their help sorting my laundry. My clean laundry.

Each student had to go pick an item of clothing out of the basket, and then we put them in rows depending on what kind of clothes they were: shirts, shorts, pants, or socks.


Next, we sorted the clothes by color. In this case, we had to do mostly [color], since most of the clothes had multiple colors on them.


Finally, we sorted by size: grown-up clothes or kid clothes.


They did a great job with the sorting. They were so excited to pick up their next piece of clothing. It was really cute; plus, it's a great feeling to see them so engaged in the lesson. The lesson was a good introduction to graphing. While the goal was to practice identifying how things are the same or different and sorting them into groups by those characteristics, they were also creating real graphs and learning some important concepts: working bottom to top or left to right, each sorted characteristic gets its own row, and filling the next open spot in a row.


  1. What a great idea! Now if I could only get a class of kids to sort my clothing at home. ;-)

  2. What's next, a field trip to your house to do some yard work? haha


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