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Recycling Adds Up!

Monday is Earth Day! And on top of Earth Day, this month is National Math Education Month--so we've found a great activity you can do to celebrate both!

In this activity, children will learn recognition, as well as become familiar with sorting, sets, and counting.


  • variety of plastic objects with recycling symbols and numbers stamped on them


  • count
  • numbers
  • recycle
  • reduce
  • reuse
  • sets
  • sort
  • symbol

Teacher Tip

  1. For older hcildren, write beginning uequations. For instance, the sets can be added in the following way: 3 objects + 2 objects = 5 objects 
  2. Adding nonrecyclables provides an extra challenge! 


  • Ahead of time, discuss the symbol/numbering system with the children. Show them images or examples of recycling symbols.
  • Set the plastic objects on a table for easy sorting. Record the correct amount for each sorted number set so you can check the children's work.

What to Do

  1. Ask the children to sort the objects by the recycling number stamped on the side or the bottom.
  2. Once they are finished, help them count the number of items in each set and compare this to the list you made.
  3. After that, help them count the total number of items. The children can do this project independently or in a group.


Consider the following:

  • Are the children able to look for the symbols and numbers? Are they able to sort the plastics?
  • Do the younger children practice number recognition, sorting, set formation, and counting?
  • Are the older children able to solve any of the equations?

This activity was submitted to Learn Every Day About Our Green Earth by Monica Shaughnessy from Katy, TX. For more fun activities for Earth Day festivities,check out Learn Every Day About Our Green Earth, available in paperback format.

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