Carpenters' Hall

Sorting the Carpenter's Nails

Skill Development

Fine motor skills, mathematics


Students will be able to identify and differentiate sizes of objects, and place them in sequential order.

Materials (per student)

  • one "nail" page printed from computer
  • plain piece of paper numbered, in large writing, from 1-10
  • overhead projector (if possible)
  • transparencies of three cut out nails of different sizes (if necessary)

Pre-procedure (to be completed by teachers prior to the lesson)

Cut out all the nails on the "nail" page printed from the computer. Make three small transparancies of three different sized nails.


Start the lesson by comparing the sizes of different objects in the room. For example, ask who is taller, the teacher or the students. The students should say, "the teacher." Continue to compare other objects around the room. If possible, place three nails from the sheet of nails provided on an overhead projector. Compare the sizes with the students. Then, test the students acknowledge of sequentially ordered sizes by placing the nails in a random order and asking them if they can help you to put them in order according to size. Check for comprehension.


  1. Pass out one set of nails per child or group, and one piece of paper numbered 1-10.
  2. Ask them to lay out the nails on the table.
  3. Instruct them to pick up the smallest nail and hold it in the air. Check for comprehension.
  4. Ask them to place the smallest nail on the number one on their sheets. Continue in this manner until the different sized nails are sequentially placed on the sheet.
  5. Have them count how many nails there are on their sheets.
  6. At the teachers discretion, the nails can be pasted to a long piece of paper to show the progression from large to small, colored, and displayed in the classroom.


Ask them what size nail would a carpenter use when making a chair, a table, a house, or a small stool. Answers will vary, but the exercise will enable the students to conceptualize the different uses of these nails. Praise them for their achievements.

Carpenters' Hall, 320 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Open free to the public daily, except Mondays (and Tuesdays in Jan. and Feb.), from 10am-4pm

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