Sets and the Venn Diagram (Beginner)

Shodor > Interactivate > Lessons > Sets and the Venn Diagram (Beginner)


This lesson is designed to introduce students to the idea of a set and what it means to be a part of a set. Students will experiment with sets in conjunction with the Venn Diagram activity.


Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  • understand the terms surrounding the idea of sets and Venn diagrams.
  • understand how to arrange items in a Venn diagram.

Standards Addressed:

Student Prerequisites

  • Mathematics: Students must be familiar with the following concepts:
    • shapes: triangles, circles, squares, and hexagons
    • similar vs. different.
  • Technological: Students must be able to:
    • perform basic mouse manipulations such as point, click, and drag.

Teacher Preparation

Students will need:

  • Access to a browser
  • Pencil and Paper

Key Terms

elementA member of or an object in a set
setA set is a collection of things, without regard to their order
Venn DiagramA diagram where sets are represented as simple geometric figures, with overlapping and similarity of sets represented by intersections and unions of the figures

Lesson Outline

  1. Focus and Review

    Introduce students to the concept of grouping and sets. Consider leading students in a discussion:

    • The elementary sets discussion introduces the idea of sets and commonalities among elements.
    • To ensure understanding, ask students guiding questions:
      • What is an element that you use everyday?
      • What set is this element part of?
  2. Objectives

    Let the students know what they will be doing and learning today. Say something like this:

    • Today, class, we will be talking about sets and what it means to be an element in a set.
    • We are going to use the computers to learn about sets and Venn diagrams, but please do not turn your computers on or go to this page until I ask you to. I want to first show you a little about sets and Venn diagrams.

  3. Teacher Input

    Lead the students in a short discussion about Venn diagrams.

    • Ask students how Venn diagrams are related to sets.
    • Explain to the class that Venn diagrams can be used to sort different sets, even if the sets do not contain shapes or numbers.

  4. Guided Practice

    • Open your browser to the Venn Diagram Shape Sorter applet.
    • Begin showing students how to use the applet by doing an example using a color for one circle and a shape for the other.
    • Allow students to complete the example as a class by giving answers orally. Be sure that students explain why their answer is correct.

  5. Independent Practice

    • Allow students to work independently or in pairs with the Venn Diagram Shape Sorter for approximately 15 minutes.
    • Once students have used the applet, have students complete the worksheet.

  6. Closure

    • Lead the class in a discussion to compare their answers to the questions on the worksheet.
    • Ask students guiding questions:
      • How do Venn diagrams help you understand sets and intersections?
      • Do you think it's easier to find the intersection of two sets when you use a Venn diagram? Why do you think that?

Alternate Outline

This lesson can be rearranged in several ways if only one computer is available for the classroom:

  • The teacher may do this activity as a demonstration, using only one computer.
  • While demonstrating, the teacher can engage students by asking individuals or groups where each shape belongs.
  • After students are familiar with how to use Venn diagrams, have students work in groups or independently to answer the questions on the worksheet.

Suggested Follow-Up

Advanced students may want to continue with the more advanced Sets and the Venn Diagram lesson.

Students might also use their knowledge of Venn diagrams to learn more about algorithms in the Algorithm Discovery with Venn Diagrams lesson.

a resource from CSERD, a pathway portal of NSDL NSDL CSERD