Math Lesson Plan: Toothpick Art/Math Shapes


  1. review primary colors
  2. practise using ruler to make straight lines
  3. make simple shapes, at least as large as a toothpick:  triangles, squares, rectangles
  4. review/use math words: parallel, perpendicular, horizontal, vertical, diagonal
  5. reinforcement of math shape names and characteristics, as well as math line words

Materials needed:

  1. oil pastel crayons in primary colors  (if you want, you can give them all the colours and tell them to only use primary colors)
  2. white glue
  3. toothpicks
  4. rulers
  5. pencils/erasers
  6. Colour code written on chart visible during art activity:  Triangles are RED, Squares are BLUE, Rectangles are YELLOW
  7. for all students:  8 1/2″ X 11 ” white paper (have at least 3 for each student)
  8. kleenex or paper towels to remove smudges (eg. when red fingerprints get on yellow)
  9. spoons to remove wrong colours by scraping off pastel (erasers can then be used to erase the remaining colour, this works really well)
  10. black paint
  11. paintbrushes

Pre-lesson review with students:

  1. review how to use ruler to draw STRAIGHT lines
  2. review math words: parallel, perpendicular, horizontal, vertical
  3. review simple shapes to be used: triangles, squares, rectangles (remember a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not always a square)
  4. review primary colors and remind students to ONLY USE PRIMARY COLORS
  5. Reinforcement of math shape terms by the COLOR CODE TO BE USED: triangles are RED, squares are BLUE, rectangles are YELLOW (squares CANNOT be yellow for this exercise, even though they are technically rectangles which are yellow).


  1. Students use pencils/erasers and rulers to draw their shapes and straight lines, at least as large as a toothpick
  2. neatness in drawing straight lines and erasing is important so pencil doesn’t show through yellow
  3. papers completed with shapes drawn neatly are checked by teacher before the coloring begins
  4. once a student’s paper has been checked, white glue is placed along the lines and toothpicks are added, breaking them to size when needed, keeping the lines STRAIGHT
  5. A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME WILL BE NEEDED TO ALLOW WHITE GLUE TO DRY. (This first part can be done during math time, with the colouring done later in the day during art time.)
  6. Only primary colors are used to colour HEAVILY in each shape, with students reminded to follow the color code chart.  It is important to color in shapes heavily because students scribble to finish and if they color each shape heavily they look GORGEOUS when they’re done and it takes them longer to work on their artwork which reinforces the shapes and math language and gives teacher time to interact.
  7. teacher walks around asking students questions (and recording student’s knowledge) about which shape is which and how do you know it is a triangle (characteristics), etc., (three sides, four sides, corners with 90 degree angles), show me two parallel lines, show me a horizontal line, diagonal, perpendicular, vertical…
  8. when students  are done coloring, they check with teacher and then they can use black paint to outline shapes, coloring the toothpicks black, careful to keep lines STRAIGHT by using small strokes to color the toothpicks dividing their shapes.

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