Birthday Party

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In this unit students think about some of the different ways people celebrate their birthdays and help plan a party for a teddy bear or character.

Achievement Objectives
GM1-1: Order and compare objects or events by length, area, volume and capacity, weight (mass), turn (angle), temperature, and time by direct comparison and/or counting whole numbers of units.
NA1-2: Know the forward and backward counting sequences of whole numbers to 100.
NA1-3: Know groupings with five, within ten, and with ten.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  • State when their birthday is and locate this on a calendar.
  • Skip count in 2s, 3s, 10s.
  • Make groups of five using different combinations.
  • Identify the diverse ways people celebrate birthdays in New Zealand.
Description of Mathematics

This unit supports students developing important skills around reading a calendar and identifying specific dates.

It also involves the use of number operations – counting from one, counting on, imaging etc, with practice in a variety of meaningful contexts

Cross-curricular links (Social Sciences)

This unit includes a collections of activities relating to birthdays.

Students could also be led to explore the importance of birthdays in some cultures and find out some ways birthdays are celebrated in different countries.

Associated Achievement Objectives

Social Sciences, level 1, AO 5: Understand how the cultures of people in New Zealand are expressed in their daily lives.

Opportunities for Adaptation and Differentiation

The learning opportunities in this unit can be differentiated by providing or removing support to students and by varying the task requirements. Ways to differentiate include:

  • providing modelled answers using number sentences and shape patterns
  • adapting the difficulty of the numbers used in each problem
  • extending students' use of different number operations and strategies
  • providing opportunities for students to work in pairs and small groups in order to encourage peer learning, scaffolding, extension, and the sharing and questioning of ideas
  • working alongside individual students (or groups of students) who require further support with specific area of knowledge or activities
  • applying gradual release of responsibility to scaffold students towards working independently

The context for this unit can be adapted to suit the interests and experiences of your students by linking to celebrations that are relevant to students' lived experiences and cultural backgrounds. Choose food, games and decorations that are appropriate for your class.

Te reo Māori kupu such as maramataka (calendar), rā (day), and tatau (count) could be introduced in this unit and used throughout other mathematical learning.

Required Resource Materials
  • Calendars
  • Paper
  • Crayons
  • Cardboard to make crowns
  • Coloured paper to cut into shapes
  • Paper to make paper streamers, ideally crepe paper

Introduction, Session 1

Introduce Q-Bear (or another soft toy or character, person etc. Consider how links could be made here to students' interests or to learning from other curriculum areas.) Explain that he is going to be having a birthday soon. Show his birthday on the calendar, making it near the end of the unit to allow time for planning the party.

Have students locate their birthdays on a calendar and record the date.

Lead a discussion to encourage students to read the calendar and compare birth dates. For example

  • Who has a birthday close to Q-Bear's?
  • How many days / weeks are there between the two birthdays?
  • Who is older, Jonah or Sally? By how many days?
  • Who has the first / last birthday of the year?

Explain that people all over the world have birthdays and lots of people celebrate them in their own special way.  What could we do to celebrate Q-Bear’s birthday?  Brainstorm and list ideas. For example: cake, candles, gifts, decorations, a feast, umu, hangi... Draw on students' prior knowledge and encourage them to include ideas that relate to their lived experiences. Perhaps you could read a book about birthdays or celebrations to support the generation of further ideas.

Exploring, Sessions 2-4

Explain that Q-Bear is very excited about his birthday so as a class they are going to plan and hold a party for him. Carry out the following activities as preparation over the next few days. Although these activities are given as stand-alone tasks, they could be used as follow-up stations in response to whole class teaching. Ensure that you roam and provide support to small groups of students, or to individuals, in response to their demonstrated needs.


Q-Bear is going to be 5 years old and there are red and blue candles for his cake. Draw the different colours his candles could be. For example, 5 red, 4 red and 1 blue or 3 red and 2 blue etc.

Record this information as pictures, written sentences or number sentences.

Shopping list

Q-Bear is going to invite 5 friends to the party. They will get 3 lollies and 2 balloons each to take home. How many lollies and balloons will you need to buy? Use counters or draw diagrams to help figure this out, adapting the numbers to make this problem harder as required.


Q-Bear is very excited as he is going to have special cupcakes at his party. These cakes have 2 lollies on each one to look like eyes. If he ate one cupcake how many lollies would he eat? What if he ate 2 cakes? Or 3 cakes?

Record the pattern and practise skip counting.


Make a special crown to wear at the party. Provide students with 3 different shapes to decorate their crowns with, for example, squares, triangles and stars. Once the hats are finished count the numbers of shapes used on some of the crowns and record this. For example, Elisa  used 3 stars, 4 triangles and a square on her crown. She used 8 shapes altogether.

Paper streamers

Make some paper streamers by joining lengths of paper together as interlocking circles; like a chain. If everybody makes 10 links how many will there be altogether? Have students carefully count 10 links as they make them, then count them all together at the end.

Reflecting, Session 5

Hold a party for Q-Bear with some special party food. Students could bring a plate, or you could make some simple foods during another session (e.g. jelly, lolly cake - these foods lend themselves well to measurement learning). If the sharing of food is not appropriate you could use toy food, and emphasise the playing of party games as opposed to the eating of party food. Have students wear their hats and bring simple presents they have made (these could be made during class - perhaps as part of a geometry lesson focused on constructing shapes and folding nets, or as part of an arts lesson).

Sing "Happy Birthday" or "Ra whanau ki a koe" to Q-Bear and play some party games.

After the party reflect and record some information about the party. For example

  • What date was Q-Bears birthday?
  • How many whānau and friends were at his party?
  • How many gifts did he get?

As a class, construct a simple presentation (e.g. poster, video, play, artwork) that displays students' learning.

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Level One