Thursday, November 21, 2013

Teaching Math in Kindergarten: Numbers and Number Sense Activities

Good intuition about numbers and their relationships.  It develops gradually as a result of exploring numbers, visualizing them in a variety of contexts, and relating them in ways that are not limited by traditional algorithms.

- Hilde Howden

Number Sense is probably the most important part of Early Childhood Mathematics.  However, even children who know their numbers and can count can have poor number sense.

Here are the hallmarks of number sense:
  • Sense of number - understanding that "three" means a collection of 3 objects/items regardless of size. 
  • Subitise- being able to recognize quantities of objects without counting.
  • One-to-One correspondence -the last word in counting sequence names the quantity for that set
  • Matching words and numerals to a collection  
  • Being able to name numbers in terms of their parts (part-part-whole)

Children who do not have a good sense of number will have difficulty using strategies to do more difficult computation quickly.  If they do not understand what 5 is and that 5 can be broken down to 3+2, 4+1, etc they will not be able to addition or subtraction quickly in their head.

Good sense of number is the opposite of memorizing math facts.  So put away those flash cards!  Instead use productive math talk and math games!  Here are some of my favorites!

Productive Math Talk about Math Thinking

Kindergarten students aren't used to talking about Math.  If you are lucky, their parents ask them to count things or write their numbers.  They are not asked to explain their thinking.  So that is my first strategy to improving their sense of number.  When you ask them to count or identify a number, ask "How do you know it is 5?"  At first you will get the predictable  "I counted" or "I knew it in my brain".  Totally normal.  But as students start really thinking about composing and decomposing numbers they will start to connect more strategies to their thinking like, "I knew that it was 6 because 5 and 1 more is 6".  As they hear you model YOUR Math Thinking more and more students start to make those connections, you will be amazed to hear the math thinking among your students!

One way I love to engage their math thinking is with Quick Pictures.  Quick pictures is where I show my students a collection of dots, either randomly grouped or within a ten frame.  I quickly flash the pictures, only 3 seconds, and then hide it away.  I then ask the students to identify the number and have them explain their thinking.  This really allows them to hear the strategies of others.  Of course, I start small with 0-5 on a ten frame and then add the larger numbers (I go 0-20).  I want them to really understand what the 10 frame is about and the strategies that make computation easier.  Check out my 10 frame Quick Picture Flash Cards HERE.  

I also use cards with "random" grouping of dots.  They aren't really random, but are placed in a way to encourage strategic counting (4 and 1, 3 and 4, 4 and 5) and produce great math thinking.  Check out my Quick Pictures Dot Cards HERE

Math Games

I LOVE math games.  They are the perfect way to have students practice their number sense in an engaging way.  They make great Math Station activities too!

Let's Build It

In the 3 different Let's Build It games (Roll a Staircase, Roll a Tower, and Build a City) children roll a dice and build different sizes of towers. 

Roll a Staircase

Roll a Tower

Check out the FREE Let's Build It game HERE!

Same Number (or Spin and Find)

I love this game!  These cards can be used for so many different games, and help the students improve their number sense and ability to subatise by identifying the different combinations of numbers.  Pairs of students share one set of cards.  One student chooses a card and the other finds a card that shows the same number. 

Same Number

Check out the FREE Same Number game HERE!  Here is the Spin and Find Spinner!

Fifty Chart

This game is super easy to put together - just a board a dice and cubes, beans, etc.  Students take turns rolling the dice and covering up (or coloring) that many numbers.  The first to cover all 50 wins!

50 Chart

The Fifty Chart game can be found HERE!

Guess My Number

This is a great way to introduce 10 frames.  Students work in pairs.  One student closes his/her eyes while the other rolls the dice and puts that many counters on the ten frame (or a 20 frame for your higher kids! Or even a 5 frame for your struggling students!) and says, "Guess my number!".  The other student counts and says the number.  Easy! 

Guess My Number

The Ten Frames and Number Cards (from Same Number - above) can be found HERE!  The Double Ten Frame can be found HERE

Domino Matching Tic-Tac-Toe

Students work in pairs.  They each have a set of colored cards.  They take turns placing a domino dot card into the board.  If they get 3 in a row, they win!

Domino Matching Tic-Tac-Toe

The Domino Matching Tic-Tac-Toe game can be found HERE!

Thanksgiving Roll and Color

This is the game we use to introduce game play in our math stations.  Students can work individually or in pairs.  They roll the dice and color that numeral.  Easy!

Roll and Color Thanksgiving Turkey

The Thanksgiving Roll and Color can be found HERE at A Cupcake for the Teacher!

Gingerbread Man Roll and Color

Roll and Color Gingerbread Man

This game is the same as above, except I have them work in pairs and use different colors.  The student with the most colored spaces, wins!

The Gingerbread Man Roll and Color can be found HERE at Kinzie's Kreations!

Race to the Top

Race to the Top
In Race to the Top, students work in pairs.  They take turns rolling a die (12 sided works awesome!) or 2 dice (and then combine) and color in that number on their tower.  The first to color in all 12, wins!

Race to the Top can be found HERE!

Race to Trace

Race to Trace

Race to Trace is a great partner game.  Students take turns rolling a die and tracing that number.  When all numbers have been traced, count how many you have in your color and see who wins!

Race to Trace can be found HERE at Kids Count 1234!

I cannot stress enough how important review and practice is for number sense.  They need to be practicing identifying numerals and counting every single day.  The most fun and engaging way to practice is games. 

What are your favorite Number Sense games?  I would love some links to yours!


  1. These are great activities. Thanks for the resource. Liz

  2. So nice to find a blog with lots of KG math!! Thanks!

  3. I really enjoyed reading this. I don't agree with anything on sheets but thats just my experience (My nursery (kindergarten) age children are working at least a year below their actual age. You explanation of number sense is very insightful and I love your idea of quick pictures which I will pass on to our reception teachers (5-6yo's). I'll have a good look around your blog and I've subscribed. Thanks:)

  4. I really realize this post. Thanks for sharing really very much informative. It’s really very nice post looking forwards for another one. Matka || Satta Matka || Satta Matka Result || Mumbai Matka || Kalyan Matka

  5. Hello,

    Thanks for sharing this post, really nice post Fast Math

  6. Great blog nice n useful information , it is very helpful for me , I really appreciate thanks for sharing. I would like to read more information thanks.

    IGCSE Syllabus School in India

  7. Thanks my kinders will enjoy these games

  8. April 6, 2016 I am a Tk teacher and I always looking for innovating math activities that are fun and interesting. I make learning math a fun activity. Students are active participants during teaching time. l like counting numbers using flash cards each student holds a card and say the number name when is her/his turn. I like tracing, coloring and counting and matching activities. Thanks for sharing !

  9. Hello. Can your blog be used for at home practice for my daughter who needs mathematics help in kindergarten?

  10. Wow! Extremely helpful. As a first grade teacher I saw kids every year who could add and subtract but couldn't think! They had no number sense. Now that I am teaching kindergarten I feel the responsibility to go beyond our adopted curriculum to make sure that these kids have the background they need to problem solve with number. Thanks again!!!

  11. Thank you for sharing. Your suggestions lifted my defeated spirit after I sat in a class wondering why after 3 weeks something was still not clicking in my Kinders head. Number sense and critical thinking can be taught. These activities will be a huge help.

  12. Thanks for sharing. British Orchard Nursery in Dubai is the leading nursery, with state of the art facilities and faculties, trained to give the best education for your child. BON has more than 70 nurseries in Dubai. Nursery is Dubai

  13. Nice post. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep Sharing.

  14. Thanks my kinders will enjoy these games....

  15. Thank u so much for sharing this sites great job i like it.. :)
    satta matka

  16. Great variety of number sense, writing, and recognition activities included in this blog post! Thanks!

  17. This is interesting, I really love Kindergarten Math Games. You have a new follower here. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Excellent publish, very informative. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.

    Play satta

  19. Teaching math to kids should be as easy as 1-2-3. Several simple strategies can be used to make math learning a fun experience for the kids inside and outside the classroom and beyond paper and pencil. Aside from making math a daily activity that uses everyday objects, it would be best to introduce and play math games. Through this, math can become an enjoyable activity and not an educational drill that they have to go through. Check this 10 Indoor and Outdoor Kindergarten Math Games to Try.

  20. Now day, everything is going to find a new but well settled and successful stream for their career. When I came to this blog, I really impressed by all the knowledge points mentioned here. Thank you for this assistance.
    หนังสือ เด็ก