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Fun with Stamps

Stamp collecting is the most popular hobby in the world. Collectors of new or used stamps sometimes gather stamps by country or by theme. Stamp collecting is called philately (fill-AT-e-ly). Two web sites with lots of information for beginning stamp collectors:

Following are some classroom activities involving stamps.

Sort and Classify

Have students, parents, and other teachers save all of their cancelled stamps for several weeks. Cut them off the envelopes. Give each group of 4-5 students a pile of stamps to sort and classify according to an attribute of their choice (for example: living vs. non-living; a theme such as buildings, animals, or flowers; color; shape; cost). Remind students that every stamp they are given needs to be included.

Next, have students from another group analyze and guess the criteria used for the classification system of the stamps they are observing. Finally, have students make a chart showing the categories in their classification systems, then glue or tape stamps in the appropriate places on the chart.


Some students may want to start their own stamp collections. Have them soak used stamps for 10 minutes in warm water, then carefully separate the stamps from the envelope corners. Students may keep their stamps in ziplock bags or attach them by subject or cost in a notebook. They may want to collect stamps with a theme, such as buildings, famous people, animals, plants, or events in U.S. history.

Stamp Math

More than 27 billion stamps are sold in the U.S. each year. Laid end to end, they would stretch around Earth 17 times!

MONEY: | In early America, the cost of sending a letter depended on how far it traveled. Today, the cost of sending a letter depends on its weight. Use the Postal Service’s online Simplified Domestic Rates and Fees chart [] to calculate how much it would cost to mail letters weighing 2 oz., 5 oz., 10 oz., and 1/2 oz.

ARRAYS: | You are given 12 rectangular stamps. What are all of the ways you can arrange them on a large envelope? (a strip 12 stamps long, two rows of 6 stamps each, 3X4, 4X3, 6X2, 1X12)

PROBLEM SOLVING WITH ADDITION: | Stamps cost 2 cents, 3 cents, 5 cents, or 8 cents each. Emily wants to mail a letter needing 40 cents’ worth of stamps. What combinations of stamps could she buy to mail this letter?

GEOMETRY AND MEASUREMENT: | Sam has a rectangular stamp that is 2 centimeters wide and 3 centimeters long. What is the perimeter of his stamp?

MULTIPLICATION: | Adam bought a sheet of stamps with 5 stamps across each row and 6 down each column. How many stamps were on the sheet?

Design a Stamp

After taking a look at a variety of cancelled stamps, ask students which ones they like best and why. Talk about the subjects on the stamps. Let students know that artists and other people with creative ideas often design stamps, and now they will have the opportunity to design their own stamp.

Using letter-size copy paper as their template (turned landscape or portrait as needed), students should sketch their designs, then use crayons or colored pencils to add color. Students may share their stamp designs with the class or collaborate to make a display for the hallway or bulletin board.