Core Knowledge Quiz: American Symbols and Icons

by Robert Pondiscio
October 28th, 2009

On this day in 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland at a ceremony in New York harbor.  This week’s Core Knowledge Quiz is about the Statue of Liberty and other American symbols.  In schools usng the Core Knowledge Sequence, children begin to recognize and become familiar with the Statue of Liberty and other national symbols starting in kindergarten.

  1. How many rays are on the Statue of Liberty’s crown and what do they symbolize? 
  2. The Statue of Liberty holds a torch in one hand and a tablet in the other with the date July 4, 1776.  What lies at the statue’s feet and why? 
  3. Benjamin Franklin described this bird as “a much more respectable bird…and a true original Native of America” and favored it over the bald eagle as America’s national symbol.  What was it? 
  4. Construction of which monument began in 1848, but was stalled for over 20 years by, among other factors, lack of funds and the Civil War? 
  5. An upstate New York businessman who sold beef to the U.S. Army during the War of 1812 was given a nickname that evolved into a symbol for the American government.  Which symbol? 
  6. The 50 stars on the American flag stand for the 50 states.  What do the stripes stand for? 
  7. True or false: The four Presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore appear from left to right in the order in which they served as President.   
  8. On the Great Seal of the United States, what is the eagle clutching in its talons and what do they represent? 
  9. The reverse of the Great Seal, most commonly seen on the back of the one-dollar bill, shows an unfinished pyramid topped by an eye.  What is the eye called and what does it symbolize? 
  10. The bald eagle is the national bird.  The rose is the national flower.  Does the U.S. have a national tree?

  Answers below:

1. There are seven rays, one for each continent. 
2. Broken shackles symbolizing breaking free from oppression and tyranny. 
3.  The turkey.
4. The Washington Monument.
5. Uncle Sam.  Samuel Wilson, provided the army barrels of beef that arrived prominently “U.S.” for the United States.  Soldiers often said that the initial U.S. stood for “Uncle Sam.”  Several years later, the familiar bearded, star-spangled character “Uncle Sam” was created by cartoonist Thomas Nast during the Civil War.  Wilson was beardless.
6. There are 13 stripes on the American flag, one for each of the 13 original states.
7.  False. From left to right, Mount Rushmore depicts Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln.  Lincoln served before Roosevelt.
8. The eagle clutches 13 arrows (the number of original states) in its left talon, and an olive branch in its right.  Together these symbolize the country’s desire for peace but readiness for war.
9. The “Eye of Providence” symbolizes the role of divine providence in America’s creation. The Latin motto atop the pyramid translates to “He approves our undertakings.”
10. Yes.  Congress declared the oak the national tree in 2004.


  1. Thanks for posting quizzes like this. My family gets a kick out of them.

    Comment by Homeschooling Granny — October 29, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

  2. I’m ashamed to say how few of these I got correct! I grieve for the pathetic education I received, but celebrate the rigorous one my children are receiving in a Core Knowledge school. Thank you!!!!

    Comment by Donnell — October 30, 2009 @ 11:46 am

  3. This was great, and I’ll have to check them out again (new subscriber). My son is a 6th grader and has always been homeschooled, mostly with the K12, Inc. curriculum, and since K12 bases their curriculum on the majority of the CK sequence, I’m proud to say he answered all of these correctly! I did, too, only because I’ve re-learned (okay, learned for the 1st time!) this with him the past 7 years!!!

    Comment by Julie C. — October 30, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

  4. Thanks for this interesting quiz – I need to brush up on my history.

    Comment by QuizMaster — October 31, 2009 @ 11:43 am

  5. At first I found myself surprized and irritated by the seeming triviality of the questions. When I read the answers (yes, I did not know all the answers) I was struck by the ideas within the questions.
    …tyranny,peace, readiness, sustanance…these are the ideas behind the tangible rays, shackles, turkeys, and beef.

    Comment by claudia — October 31, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

  6. Fantastic questions. I like this exam.

    Comment by ö?retmen — November 24, 2009 @ 5:50 pm

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