Combinations Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about data, probability, and combinations.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Combinations. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Help children explore data analysis and probability. This movie will teach how to determine all possible combinations of a given scenario by using charts and tree diagrams. It will also explain how to use multiplication to calculate the total number of possible choices. We recommend pausing the movie throughout and having children create their own charts and tree diagrams or draw pictures to help them find the answers alongside Annie and Moby.

Review with children that a combination is a possible way of putting things from a group together. Many children have seen combo meals where they can choose from a few options. Explain that combo is short for combination. Share the following situation: A cafeteria offers the choice of a ham sandwich or a turkey sandwich, and offers a choice of milk or juice. What are all the possible combinations of sandwich and drink? Create a chart together to count all the possible combinations: turkey sandwich and milk, turkey sandwich and juice, ham sandwich and milk, ham sandwich and juice. There are four total possible combinations. Remind children to check over their charts and make sure they did not miss a possible choice. Repeat the activity with other scenarios.

Children can use tree diagrams to help them figure out the total number of possible combinations. Share the following situation: You have four pairs of pants and two shirts. What are all the possible combinations of pants and shirt? Create a tree diagram together and break down the process step by step.

Guide children to understand that instead of making charts or tree diagrams, we can multiply to find the total number of possible combinations. This is particularly helpful when we work with situations that involve more choices. Share the following situation: You have six hats and two scarves. What are all the possible combinations of hats and scarves? Creating a chart or tree diagram might take a bit of time with so many items, but multiplication can help us find the answer quickly. We multiply the first set of choices by the second set: 6 x 2 = 12. Repeat the activity again with other scenarios. You may want to use manipulatives or draw pictures to set up an array to help children multiply. Draw attention to the fact that combinations, like multiplication, can be in any order and still produce the same answer.

We recommend doing plenty of hands-on activities to help reinforce the concepts in the lesson. Use real-life situations to help children connect math to the world around them.

Filed as:  Combinations, Data, K-3, Math