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Young children have an intuitive sense about quantities and number. After about the age of two, they know a big cookie from a little cookie. They are able to select the group of blocks that has more. Yet when we start their mathematical experience we ignore that intuitive sense and start with the numbers 1 to 10—drilling the one-to-one correspondence between the quantities and numerals.

To Market, To Market takes a different approach to number sense. To Market, To Market uses the familiar setting of an open-air marketplace and everyday experiences to help students gradually develop a feeling for the order and sense of the number system.


New Signer Version

In the To Market, To Market signer version, the signing character, closed captions, and other visual cues give access to deaf and hard-of-hearing children. The signing character interprets the verbal instructions and cues into sign language, reducing or eliminating the need for an adult to guide the child through the game. Research has shown that deaf and hard of hearing students responded enthusiastically to this rare experience of a “signing” game.
(Click here for more information on Deaf Research.)


What makes To Market, To Market fun?

To Market, To Market was designed to capture students’ attention and to motivate them with creative rewards. Students visit a series of stands in an engaging market with a carnival atmosphere. Each stand is operated by a whimsical character—Ms. Butterfly, Fly the Dragonfly, and Ollie the Octopus. The students help the characters run the stand. Students will find no immediate roadblocks to their instant enjoyment of the program; there are no instructions that a student must read nor are their any icons for you to explain. To Market, To Market is designed to encourage students’ intuitions and to stimulate their natural curiosity.

the market carnival

Developing math skills

The program starts by reinforcing children’s ability to distinguish large from small. For example, at the most basic level of the game, children help Ms. Butterfly select the group that has more. The first activities involve quantities that are different enough that just looking should reveal the answer. Numerals are given in the answer, not with the expectation that children know the numbers, but just to get them familiar with the words. As activity levels progress, quantities are closer, thus making visual recognition more difficult. Using visual tools such as the number line and grouping, children can choose the crate with more or less. As children progress from one stand to the next, they become more dependent on the numbers to make things equal, less than, or greater than. By the last level, most of the tools are removed, and children must depend on the number to discriminate between quantities. (Click here for more information on Mathematical skills and standards.)

typical market stand

Each stand has similar tools that are available to the student—number line, grouping tools, visuals, add/subtract tools—but sometimes some tools are unavailable, requiring students to use different strategies in solving the problems.


To Market, To Market has five different market stands:

Ms. Butterfly's stand

Ms. Butterfly’s Stand invites students to compare sets of objects and determine which set has more. In level one, objects can be compared visually. In levels two and three, the quantities are close enough that grouping is necessary in order to compare quantity. Sound is also used to help students compare quantity. Reinforcement always ties the numerals to the solution, but students do not need numerals to solve the problems—in Ms. Butterfly’s Stand, they can answer all problems visually.


Mr. Dragonfly’s Stand challenges students to work with two sets to either make them equal, make one set less, or make one set more. Students do so by using a variety of tools—number pipes that add or subtract, grouping tools, or dragging and dropping—to redistribute the objects. Students can still solve problems visually in this stand; they do not need to work directly with the numerals. However, this stand is more difficult and requires students to think and problem solve.

Mr. Dragonfly's stand
Ollie the Octopus' stand

Mr. Octopus’s Stand asks students to assist customers who want to make a purchase equal to, greater than, or less than a previous purchase. This type of problem generates a single correct answer, but there are many ways to solve it. In this level, students need to be able to count to at least five. Numbers are always shown and can be used to solve problems.


In Jamal’s Movie Production Studio students make their own mathematical stories using the characters in a mini-movie. Magic Math Machines earned in the first three stands can be used in stories to perform operations such as doubling, adding one, subtracting one, making an object bigger, etc.

JamalÕs Movie Production Studio
JamalÕs Movie Production Studio

The Viewing Stage allows students to share and work as a group. Students can listen to, or view stories written by other students and then, in the non-signing version, record their comments.


The creators of To Market, To Market

To Market, To Market was created by a group of mathematics researchers, cognitive scientists, engineers, artists, and programmers in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands. The program is based on research on the early development of number sense. The signing version of To Market, To Market was created by experts in the field of deaf education for use by the hearing impaired.