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Mathematics With a Mob Cap

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The mob cap was a plain cap with gathered crown and frill, worn by women and girls in colonial Virginia. The cap's shape and size varied over time with changing hair styles. Usually made of fine linen or cotton, it was one of the head coverings always worn publicly by females indoors as well as outside. To be found capless was to be found in a state of undress. Caps protected the hair from dirt acquired through everyday activities–smoke from fireplaces, grease from cooking, dust from travel, etc. Caps also covered hair which was washed infrequently (it was generally thought unhealthy to wash hair too often; it was easier to put on a clean cap). Mob caps were also worn under fancy bonnets and other types of hats.

Time Required

This lesson can be covered over a five-day period when integrating the social studies and math lessons.


Literacy Connections

Students will be engaged in the following:

  • Using problem solving approaches
  • Applying strategies to solve a variety of routine problems
  • Relating everyday language to mathematical language & symbols
  • Presenting an oral report on colonial clothing
  • Following instructions on how to make a mob cap
  • Creating an original story on "The Secret of the Mob Cap"
  • Engaging in theater or drama while wearing period clothing


As a result of this lesson, the student will be able to:

  • describe the patterns of early life through the colonial period
  • develop links between conceptual ideas and abstract procedures
  • identify and describe the formulas for constructing a circle

Setting the Stage

Introduce the lesson with the chapter in your present social studies textbook on colonial life in America. Concentrate emphasis on the clothing of the time, specifically the mob cap.

Discuss with students the styles of eighteenth-century clothing. Refer to Eighteenth-Century Clothing in Williamsburg and/or the Sketch Books which are listed in the Appendix.

Present the lesson in your math textbook on radius, diameter and circumference.


Pass out the Vocabulary Graphic Organizer to each student. Have students work in teams of three to look up definitions and draw illustrations. Allow time for each team to report its findings.

Present the Mob Cap Instructions. Be sure students understand their roles before proceeding.

Follow the mob cap instructions. Play eighteenth-century music while students are working. The two audio CDs listed in the Appendix are good examples of eighteenth-century music.

Alternate Plan

Have each student write a report on colonial clothing, e.g., the mob cap, waistcoat, etc. Have students refer to the Summer Teacher Institute lesson "Eighteenth-Century Clothing." Included in this report could be research into the natural fibers used to make the clothing being investigated. Students could also illustrate in their report the various kinds of clothing they are researching.

Have students create an original story entitled "The Secret of the Mob Cap." The story should incorporate ideas on colonial clothing and historical figures. It could be illustrated with drawings of accurately dressed eighteenth-century people.


The final product (the mob cap) should be evaluated when determining the overall grade. When finished constructing the caps, the class could create a dramatization using the mob caps in their play.


Resources used for this lesson:

  • The Colonial Williamsburg Coloring Book
  • Eighteenth-Century Clothing - Summer Teacher Institute Lesson
  • Eighteenth-Century Clothing of Williamsburg by Linda Baumgarten
  • An Introduction to Williamsburg by Valerie Tripp
  • A Delightful Recreation - The Music of Thomas Jefferson audio CD
  • A Numerous and Brilliant Assembly audio CD
  • Keys of the Palace audio CD
  • In Freedom We're Born audio CD
  • Sketch Book: A Collection of Notes and Sketches on Women's Dresses by Robert Klinger
  • Sketch Book '76: The American Soldier by Robert Klinger

This lesson plan was developed by Beverly Murray, fifth grade teacher from Epperly Heights Elementary School, Del City, Oklahoma. If you have a lesson plan which you would like to share with teachers, please send to School & Group Services, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, P.O. Box 627, Williamsburg, Virginia, 23187.