National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix


Agriculture Counts

Grade Level(s)

K - 2

Estimated Time

1.5 hours


Students read a story about our nation's first survey of agriculture, discuss reasons for counting things, and gain practice by sorting and counting a variety of objects related to agriculture.


  • Large bag of animal crackers
  • Snack mix (pretzels, peanuts, rice cereal, corn cereal, sunflower sees, raisins)
  • 8 - 10 paper plates
  • Arthur Young and the President story
  • My Census of Agriculture activity sheets (livestock and crops)
  • Agriculture Counts activity sheets (optional)
  • Arthur Young and the President PowerPoint

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


agriculture: the science or occupation of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock.

census: an official count or survey of a population, typically recording various details of individuals.

counting: to check over a group of items one by one to determine the total number in all

soybeans: a widely cultivated plant of the pea family which produces edible seeds used in variety of foods and animal feeds as a replacement for animal protein.

Did you know? (Ag Facts)

  • The USDA conducts a Census of Agriculture to illustrate current trends among U.S. farmers and agricultural operations.1
  • The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years. The next census will be conducted in 2017.1
  • Information from the census is used by everyone who provides services to farmers and rural communities.1

Background Agricultural Connections

Do you remember when you first learned to count? For most people, counting is one of the first things their parents taught them. So if you’re  like most people, you’ve been counting things almost as long as you’ve been talking.

Why do we count things? What kinds of things do we count? In ancient times people used tokens made from clay to keep count of things. If they wanted to remember how many sheep they had, they would gather as many of the tokens as they had sheep and place them in a safe place. Over time, people began to keep count by making marks on the walls of caves to designate numbers. Some people think this was the first writing.

Why would ancient people need to remember how many sheep they had? They might need to keep track of them, so they would know if any had wandered off that they should go look for.

What are some of the things that you count? Maybe your mom tells you that you can have three cookies. Or maybe you know you have 25 baseball cards and want to make sure your little brother didn’t take any. Or maybe you know it costs 75 cents to buy a can of pop, and you need to know if you have enough money before you go to the store.

Counting is a very important part of all of our lives. The people who grow our food have to count very closely and keep very good records. They have to know how many acres to plant. They need to know how much seed and fertilizer to use. And they need to know how many bushels of wheat or soybeans or peanuts their fields produced during the year. They keep careful records, so they can make sure they are earning enough money to pay their expenses. Those who raise animals need to know how many offspring their animals produce, so they will know how much food to buy and how many animals to sell. They need to know how much money they can expect to make, so they can plan for the coming year. Counting is a very important part of the farmer’s job.

Our government needs to keep a good count of crops and farm animals, so they know what kind of help the farmers need to make sure we have enough food to eat. The US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is the government agency responsible for keeping count.

Interest Approach – Engagement

Show a soybean plant to the class. Call your local Farm Bureau office and ask for names of farmers that could provide you with a few soybean plants before its harvested in the fall. Allow each student to pick a bean pod from the plant. Explain that soybeans are one of most versatile crops grown in the world. Farmers in the United States grow more soybeans than farmers in any other country. Soybeans are used in food products, such as chocolate, breads, cooking oils, and baby foods.

Have a group discussion on how the bean pod feels. Have students open their pod, take out the beans and feel them. How do the beans feel compared to the pod? How many beans were in the pod? Most will answer “three” since this is the number of soybeans normally stored in a pod. Did any pod have less than three beans? Did any pod have more than three beans? Take up the beans by having students place them, one at a time, into a zip sealed bag and count as they place their beans in the bag. The first person will count “one, two, three” and the next person will count “four, five, six.” This cumulative count will continue until all students have placed their beans in the bag. Tell the students they will be counting more items to conduct their own agriculture census.

Alternative: If you are unable to obtain a soybean plant with the pods, edamame can be used as an alternative. Edamame is an immature soybean harvested before it hardens. These delicious bright green soybeans have become quite popular in the American cuisine culture and can be purchased at the grocery store shelled or in the pod, fresh or frozen. They would serve as a tasty snack for students to try once the lesson plan has been delivered. Note that the variety of soybean used for edamame typically has two beans per pod. In contrast, the varieties of soybean grown commercially has three beans per pod.


Activity 1: Agricultural Census

  1. Ask students why they count things. What kinds of things do they count? Write answers on the chalkboard.
  2. Discuss background material, and read the story Arthur Young and the President.
  3. Show the Arthur Young and the President PowerPoint as a visual to supplement the reading of the story.
  4. Tell students they will be conducting their own agricultural census. Divide them into groups of four or five. Provide each group with a plate of animal crackers and each student with a copy of the My Census of Agriculture: Livestock activity sheet.
  5. Show students how to use tally marks to keep count. Explain that this is similar to the way ancient people kept count by drawing pictures on the walls of caves.
  6. Have students draw pictures of the different animal crackers in separate columns on their activity sheets. Then have students sort the animal crackers and use the tally marks in the appropriate columns to count them.
  7. Have students translate their tally marks into numbers, and ask one person from each group to make a “livestock report” by reading aloud the number of each animal counted.
  8. Draw a classroom chart on the chalkboard, and record the data as the groups report it.
  9. Repeat the process with the snack mix and the My Census of Agriculture: Crops activity sheet. Explain to students that the different ingredients in the mix represent different crops. Show students what each ingredient represents, and have them write the names of the different crops in the “Name of Crop” column on the activity sheet. Have students sort, count, record, and report, as in steps five through seven.
  10. Provide extra snack mix and animal crackers for students to eat.

Activity 2: Sequential Order with Soybeans

  1. Using the soybeans or the edamame from the Interest Approach/Motivator activity, prepare two sets of bags with various numbers of soybeans in each bag.
  2. Each set of bags should have the same number of soybeans. For example, you could have a set of 10 bags with beans 1 through 10 placed in each bag. The second set of 10 bags should be the same; however to differentiate between the two sets, place a colored dot on the outside of each bag. The first set could have blue dots and the second set would have green dots.
  3. Depending on the readiness of the students, the bags could also have sets of beans from 10 - 19, or 20 - 29, etc..
  4. Give each student one of the bags. Tell them it is very important to keep their bags zipped at all times.
  5. Ask, What's inside your bag? Verify that it is soybeans. Remind the students that soybeans are a major export in the United States and have many uses. Review their uses listed in the Interest Approach/Motivator activity.
  6. Next, have the students find all of their classmates with the same color dot on their bag and then organize themselves in a straight line in sequential order from least to greatest according to the number of soybeans they have in their bags. Allow talking the first time the class completes this activity.
  7. Throw the bags in a box. Redistribute the bags.
  8. Have the students organize themselves in their same colored groups in a straight line, from greatest to least, using NONVERBAL communication only.
  9. Take up the bags and ask the students which activity was the most difficult. Ask them why it is important to count items and arrange them in sequential order? Why is it important for farmers to count things found on their farm?

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Farmers provide food, fiber (such as cotton) and other important necessities.
  • Soybeans are grown by farmers in the United States and have many uses.
  • It's important for farmers to keep good records. Farmers count many things just like the students did today. Examples could include the seeds they plant, the acres they grow, the size of their harvest, the cost of their tractors or machinery, and much more.

Enriching Activities

  • Provide students with other items to sort and count - mixed seeds, mixed beans, mixed grains, variety candy mixes, crayons, bags of plastic farm animals, etc.

  • On a map of the United States, have students locate the area surveyed in the story of Arthur Young and George Washington.

  • Have students make a mural like ancient cave drawings showing their animal cracker count. Use the classroom chart you made, and assign one animal to each of the groups. Students should make simple drawings to represent the animals they counted. Use brown paper and tempera paint in earth tones to make the mural look more like a cave drawing.

  • Make copies of the activity sheets at the end of the lessons to give students additional practice counting.

Suggested Companion Resources

Agricultural Literacy Outcomes

Culture, Society, Economy & Geography

  • Discuss what a farmer does (T5.K-2.a)
  • Explain why farming is important to communities (T5.K-2.b)

Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy

  • Identify animals involved in agricultural production and their uses (i.e., work, meat, dairy, eggs) (T2.K-2.b)
  • Identify examples of feed/food products eaten by animals and people (T2.K-2.c)

Education Content Standards


K-4 Geography Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information.

  • Objective 4
    Objective 4
    The interpretation of geographic representations.

K-4 Geography Standard 3: How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface.

  • Objective 3
    Objective 3
    Models are used to represent features of human and/or physical systems.


K-4 History Standard 3D: The interactions among groups throughout the history of his or her state.

  • Objective 2
    Objective 2
    Analyze the significance of major events in the state's history, their impact on people then and now, and their relationship to the history of the nation.

K-4 History Standard 3E: The ideas that were significant in the development of the state and that helped to forge its unique identify.

  • Objective 2
    Objective 2
    Analyze how the ideas of significant people affected the history of their state.

NCSS 2: Time, Continuity, and Change

  • Objective 4
    Objective 4
    Key people, events, and places associated with the history of the community, nation, and world.

State specific Standards and Objectives

State Standards for UT

Common Core Connections

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards

    Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
    Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
    Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Mathematics: Practice Standards

    Reason abstractly and quantitatively. Students make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations. They bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems involving quantitative relationships: the ability to decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically and manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own, without necessarily attending to their referents—and the ability to contextualize, to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved. Quantitative reasoning entails habits of creating a coherent representation of the problem at hand; considering the units involved; attending to the meaning of quantities, not just how to compute them; and knowing and flexibly using different properties of operations and objects.
    Model with mathematics. Students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. Students who can apply what they know are comfortable making assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. They are able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using such tools as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts and formulas. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.
    Attend to precision. Students try to communicate precisely to others. They try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning. They state the meaning of the symbols they choose, including using the equal sign consistently and appropriately. They are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem context.


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