Lily Pad Comparisons | Early Math Activity

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Featured in The Path to Early Math: What Preschool Teachers Need to Know by Ingrid Crowther, EdD, this Lily Pad Comparison activity helps children develop their understanding of forming sets. A set is a collection that contains a specific number of objects. Children are able to begin understanding sets before they even know how to count. This also leads to exploring concepts of one more or one fewer. "Oops, I guess that was one too many. The lily pad is sinking." 

Lily Pad Comparisons


  • Green foam sheets 
  • Scissors
  • Plastic frogs, dragonflies, or ladybugs
  • Tub or water table
  • Water

What to Do

Cut the foam into lily-pad shapes. Put the lily pads and frogs or insects next to the water table or tub. Encourage the children to form equal or unequal sets of frogs or insects on the various lily pads. Children tend to begin with small numbers of objects to use as comparisons, but as their skills and abilities increase, they create larger and larger sets.