Caps off for maths!

This post is republished from the readilearn blog.

Hi, and welcome again to the readilearn blog. I hope you’ve had a good week.

Rarely, when the costs of education are being calculated, is the contribution made by teachers from their own pockets acknowledged. It is not very well publicised that many teachers spend a lot of their own money resourcing their classrooms, which would be far less interesting places if teachers refused to contribute in this way.

Today I demonstrate that not all resources need be expensive. A versatile, free, and readily available resource is the humble bottle cap or lid, which  is often discarded, but can fulfill a number of functions in the classroom.


It doesn’t take long to gather an extensive collection of lids even on your own. But ask your children to bring in lids from home and the collection builds even quicker.

Lids have many uses.

Children can, for example:

Sort by colour or size

sort-colour sort-size

Order according to size – diameter or height

order-diameter order-height

Make patterns – repeating or growing

growing-pattern repeating-ab-pattern

Count – by ones, twos or fives

count-in-onescount-in-2s count-in-5s

Learn to subitise, and discover conservation of number


Compare, add, substract and share


Measure length and mass

measure-length measure-mass

Use for collage or craft, or as tokens when playing games

collage snakes-and-ladders

These are just a few ideas. What other uses have you found for lids? Please share in the comments below.

Look what's new

What’s new – Uploaded this week!

These ideas and others are  now available in a free maths resource Caps off for maths.



Getting to know readilearn resources

Snakes and Ladders is a popular game and great for maths groups. With some guidance from an adult, the game can be used to stimulate mathematical thinking alongside practice of computations. The readilearn resource Snakes and Ladders – An activity for maths groups provides suggestions that can be given to an assistant to maximise learning opportunities while playing the game.


Please contact me if you have any questions. I welcome your feedback, especially suggestions for improvements to existing resources and ideas for new ones.

Remember, if you haven’t yet subscribed, an introductory discount of 20% is available to all who subscribe during 2016. Just use the coupon code welcome1 at the checkout to receive your discount.

I’ll see you next week. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend.

Thank you

Thank you for reading.

Happy teaching and learning,


You can contact me:

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All images in this post are copyright Norah Colvin.

24 thoughts on “Caps off for maths!

  1. Rowena

    Norah, I’m sure you won’t be shocked that I’m more into art than maths and i could see these lids being used to make some striking, modernistic artworks. I collected a box full of cuckoo clocks and components when our neighbour, a retired jeweller, put them out for council cleanup. I can see them being welded into something. I’d also like to frame one of the cuckoo clock “hearts” inside a perspex box. The inner workings are so intriguing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      There was a great art installation at the art gallery a couple of years ago. It was a huge collection of caps and lids that children could rearrange to their hearts content. It was awesome! I’m sure you’ll find amazing things to do with those pieces of cuckoo clocks.


    1. Norah Post author

      Anything can be used for counters. Tiddly wink counters are excellent. Buttons are too, as are pop sticks, stones, and all sorts of things. A varied collection is great so that children don’t think that everything counted needs to be the same. I’m pleased to hear your little one is getting experience with maths concepts. 🙂


  2. Steven

    You mention using the lids as tokens and I noticed you have generally more blue lids in the photos compared to the others. They could probably be used as the basis of a rudimentary currency for the purpose of trading in a school room activity, with the rarer colours being worth more than the common ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      That’s true about the blue lids. They must tell something about my product choice. I like your idea of using them as currency. Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂


  3. Shawna Ayoub Ainslie

    What a lovely view of existing resources. I know the school my children attend is excellent at repurposing items. This allows for class pariticipation in the creation of learning tools. As a result my children often reuse recyclable materials from our bins. It’s quite wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Shawna. Schools have to be good at repurposing items. It saves on cost and, at the same time, teaches children by example to reduce, reuse and recycle. It’s great to see the same learning occurring at home as well. Each little bit that we all do helps. Thank you for your contribution. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. thecontentedcrafter

    So true Norah, I’d kind of hoped maybe teachers would be compensated today for the financial outlay they make in so many areas of their work…….. I use bottle cap lids of varying sizes in my art – dip them gently in a little paint and make coloured circles. It’s great fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Bottle caps are unlimited in their use! I love the way you have used them. I’ll have to keep an eye out for those little circles in your art!
      I know how much my colleagues and I used to spend on resources each year. We were provided with some supplies, but each year when tax time came around, I was absolutely stunned at how much I had outlaid. Some was on resources such as books, games and manipulatives, but a lot was on consumables. I did it because I wanted to provide the best for the children, but would have liked a little recognition of the contribution from higher authorities. People were shocked at how bare the classroom was when I finished up and took my resources with me. There wasn’t much left other than desks, chairs, a few shelves, and a whiteboard. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thecontentedcrafter

        I absolutely understand the response Norah – the same thing happened to me and I visited a few other classrooms too…. “Oh,” they said “I didn’t know that belonged to you…”
        One year the PTA proudly decided to make $100 available to every teacher for out of pocket expenses. The teachers had spent it by the end of the first term. The shock was palpable 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Norah Post author

          That’s right. $100 doesn’t go very far. Divide it by 25 children and it’s only $4 each. Doesn’t buy much of anything for anyone! A welcome gesture though. Every bit helps. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  5. sherylgwyther

    I have done this development checklist ‘trick’ with children when I was an early childhood teacher. There are those littlies who’ll (after I move the number of buttons around after they’ve counted them, usually by touching off each button) need to re-count them again.
    Then there are the kids who look at you as if you’re nuts for asking them ‘How many buttons are there now?’ after you’ve just shifted their placement. This is how I knew whether to move on to more abstract number concepts for that child. How can you add and take away if you don’t understand what number means?
    It is so sad in many Prep classes nowadays where there is no time in a curriculum to let kids play with number before they pick up a pencil to record it!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for visiting and for your encouraging comment, and for sharing on Facebook, Sheryl. I appreciate your support of young children’s learning. Children need much more time to explore and develop the concepts so that they have a strong understanding, as you say. If they are hurried into abstract tasks and required to record things they don’t understand, only to receive big red crosses, it just confuses them more, convinces them they are failures, and turns them off learning and maths. It’s not how learning should be. The understanding of conservation of number is a basis for any work with number.



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