Muffin Tin Math: One-to-one Correspondence and Sets

Grade: Preschool and Kindergarten 

Target Learning Skills:

  • One-to-one correspondence and sets
  • Shape: circle

Common Core Standard:

Counting & Cardinality

  • K.CC.4a - When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only one object.

Measurement & Data

  • K.MD.2 Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of”/“less of” the attribute, and describe the difference. For example, directly compare the size of two circles and describe one circle as larger/smaller.


One-to-One correspondence is a foundational math skill for preschoolers. Use muffin tins as a fun tool for your children to learn to count, make sets, and use one-to-one correspondence. One-to-one correspondence is “the ability to match numbers to objects or object to object; for example, the numbers one to five: matching five blocks, or matching one sock to one shoe" (Pica, 2012).”

Sets and More Sets

What you need: 
Muffin tin with 9 or 12 cups 
Felt or craft foam in different colors

What you do:
Create two sets of colored circles in two different sizes with the same number of circles in each set (number of muffin cups).

First, show your child the circles and ask him/her the name of the shape. Talk about the differences in the circles (color, size). Next, ask your child to order the circles in two groups: large and small. 

Next, place the muffin tin in front of your child and ask, “Can you take one large circle and place it in one of the muffin cups?” Observe your child as he/she attempts to complete this task. Now, ask your child to fill each muffin cup with one large circle. 

Ask, “How many circles are in each cup?” 

Point to and count each circles as "one red circle, ect." in each muffin cup. (Great opportunity to re-inforce the color names.)

Next, have your child place one small circle inside each muffin cup. 

Then ask, “Are there just as many small circles as large circles?” Have your child explain his/her answer. 

Let children repeat the activity on his/her own. 


Let children sort the circles into sizes and colors. Encourage them to make a pattern: large circle, small circle, large circle, small circle, etc.

Provide your child with different items that he/she can place in the muffin cups: 9 or 12 apples, Duplo Legos, plastic animals, pom-poms, plastic eggs, etc.

Instruct your child to place one apple in each muffin tin cup. Ask, “How many apples are in each cup?” (This is also a great motor skill activity for toddlers.) 

Ask your child to place one plastic animal and one pom-pom into each cup. Ask, “How many animals are in each cup?” How many pom-poms? How many items are in each cup?”  


Snack Idea: Cereal Mix

Place muffin liners in each cup of six-cup muffin tin. Provide your child with Froot Loops cereal and place them in a bowl. Explain to your child that he/she will help you create his/her circle snacks for the next six days. First, let your child sort the Froot Loops into different piles. (Variation: provide different types of cereals.)

Next, instruct him/her to create cereal snacks that have one of each type/color of loops in each cup. Demonstrate how to place one loop cereal in the first two cups. Let your child continue filling the other cups with the loop cereal. Ask, ”Which color loops do you want to place next in the muffin cups?” Then, let your child place that type of loops in the cups. Point to a cup and ask questions such as “How many red loop cereals are in this cup? How many yellow? How many Froot Loops are in each cup?”


View more preschool and kindergarten shapes activities and games


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