Give Me a Minute

Literacy Math
Time 30 minutes
Age 7 & up
Group Size 4 or more
Tags Categorizing, Data, Game

Lions and tigers and bears...

Math is a natural subject to fit into your everyday work with your students. The Mixing in Math curriculum, created by TERC (click here to visit the website), contains lots of great math activities that require little or no materials, and are easy to fit into what you are already doing. This activity, which is adapted from the Mixing in Math curriculum, helps children practice categorizing and data collection.

Give Me a Minute

Suggested Materials

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Stopwatch or clock with a second hand

Make it Matter

Opening Discussion

Ask your students to tell you what the following things have in common: horse, bear, monkey, moose. Some children may say “they are all animals”. Others may say “they are all mammals”; or “they all have hair”, or “they are all brown”. Some of these things are definitely true (they are for sure all animals and all mammals). But others might be up for debate—are all horses or bears brown? Choose one of the categories that children suggested (such as “animals” or “things with hair”), and ask the group to list other things that might fit in to that category. Then tell them that you are going to teach them a game that challenges them to name as many things in different categories as they can in one minute.

The Challenge

Play this game and name as many things as you can in just one minute.


Make it Happen

Doing the Activity

  1. Have kids play in teams of two for this activity.
  2. Hand out paper and pens or pencils to each child.
  3. Tell them the rules of the game:
    • You will all decide together on a category (such as “Animals”; “Vegetables”; “Movies”, “Foods that start with the letter ‘S’”, etc.).
    • Everyone will have 1 minute to write down as many things as they can think of that fit into that category.
    • After 1 minute is up, each child will compare their list with their partners’. They will then each cross off of their list anything that their teammate also had on their list.
    • Players should discuss together anything that is listed that one player thinks does not fit into the chosen category. They need to both agree that it fits in the category for it to count. If there is disagreement, the teacher will help with the decision.
    • The winner from each team is the player with the most items that their playing partner did not also list.
  4. Decide together as a group what the first category is.
  5. On the count of three, start timing 1 minute, and have kids write down everything they can. Tell them when one minute is up, then have them compare their lists with their teammates and tabulate their scores.

Make it Click

Let’s Talk About It

After playing once, bring everyone together to discuss. How did they decide what fit into the category? For instance, if the category was “cereal”, did they decide that it needs to come in a box to count? What if you need to cook it? Are there any lingering items that teams could not agree on? Bring those to the larger group for discussion.


Make it Better

Build On What They Talked About

Send teams back to play again. If they would like, children can play different players.


  • For younger children, suggest general topics like “animals” or “foods”.
  • For more of a challenge (especially for older children), select more and more specific topics, such as “mammals”; “vegetables”; “mammals with horns”; “vegetables that are roots”; etc.
  • For some more excellent math activities designed just for afterschool programs, visit this site.
  • For a literacy extension, check out these books:
    • Animal Encyclopedia. Parsons, Jayne. (DK, 2000).
    • Scholastic Children’s Encyclopedia. Scholastic (Scholastic, 2004).
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