Try these fun hands-on math activities in your Kindergarten, first, & second grade classroom that builds number sense. You’ll find learning ideas, lesson plans, and more engaging ideas to get kids excited about math!
Hands-On Math: Activities that Build Number Sense
The benefits of teaching number concepts early on are obvious: Math skills are built on the basics from the very beginning. As early as preschool, we begin teaching children how to count and how to understand the value that numbers represent. From then on, all Math concepts build from there!
To engage children, we must provide multiple types of teaching, and the best way to do this is through hands-on math activities.
Using manipulatives, visuals, actions, and activities in a tactile, visual, and mobile way encourages kids to engage with numbers and quickly learn.
Teach math with hands-on experiences, manipulatives, and other types of engagement. this post is filled with actionable ideas and fun activities for kids.
Here are hands-on math activities to help kids practice counting.
- Count out loud, starting at one and building to higher and higher numbers.
- Sit with a partner or in a circle and take turns counting by 1s.
- As counting develops, teach number patterns and counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s.
- Use a number chart to see what numbers look like visually. Point to each number as it is said.
- Encourage kids to practice one-to-one counting with small objects. Have small groups of objects set up in a center for them to count.
- Provide number cards for kids to represent with counting chips or cubes.
Matching Numbers to Quantities
Here are some ideas for connecting numbers and quantities, an important skill.
- Match two different types of objects together, such as five counting bears and a domino that shows five dots.
- Use links to create a number chain for a number.
- Work up to showing quantity with more than two types of objects (as seen in the photo).
- Have many different items available for activities, such as dice, dominoes, number magnets, bears, counting chips, cubes, and number cards.
- Match number cards from a card deck or game of Uno with dots on dominoes. Find every number combination on the dominoes.
- Complete number puzzles that have a different number representation on each piece. They help kids see that numbers can be modeled in many ways.
- Encourage one-to-one counting with clip cards. Kids count groups of objects and clip the numeral that matches the correct quantity.
- Ten frames are great for organizing numbers so that they can be easily counted. Matching numeral cards with ten frame representations is simple, yet effective at connecting quantity with numbers.
Number of the Day
Using a number of the day is a good way to build math skills. Check out these different ways you can implement the “number of the day”:
- Learn about a specific number for each day that you have been at school. Teach and dissect that number during calendar time. Represent that number on a number line, count to that number, show that number with straws or cubes, etc.
- Use a number of the day poster or anchor chart to break numbers down. Create your number of the day poster with the FREE poster templates.
- Encourage kids to participate and show their understanding on paper or mini whiteboards. Ask a question, such as “How do we show 5 with tally marks?” and allow them time to try on their own. This makes an excellent fluency-building warm-up to math lessons.
- Read more tips on starting a number of the day routine in your classroom.
Putting numbers in order helps build students’ number sense.
- Provide opportunities to use a number line and number chart that puts numbers in order for us.
- Give sets of numbers to order correctly by finding them on the number line.
- Cover different numbers on a number chart with sticky notes and ask kids for the missing numbers.
- Build Lego stacks by putting the pieces together in an order written on the blocks.
- Work together with a partner to order number cards from 0 to 20.
- Number puzzles are a fun way to order numbers. Put the strips in the right order to reveal a picture.
- Puzzles are simple and easy to create. Take an old puzzle and write numbers on the back of each piece.
- Grab a piece of paper and write numbers in rows. Cut out pieces randomly and trade with a partner. Put the puzzle back together again for practice.
- Complete a number order maze starting at 0. This activity can be reused when put into a pocket protector.
Place Value Activities
Learning to make ten in various ways based on place value. This is an important concept for kids to grasp.
- Practice making groups of ten things. Group straws, beans, counters, or any small objects.
- Teach counting by 10’s to count groups. Extend to teaching groups first and then singles.
- Make groups of ten to get to the 100th day.
- Show and examine a tens block and ones block. Discuss that a tens block has ten ones put together.
- Use base ten blocks to represent numbers. Do plenty of examples where kids must use and count blocks. Use a chart to help count the blocks.
- Say “Show (or draw) me 14 with place value blocks!”
- Represent the number of tens and ones on place value mats (seen below). Ask questions like “How many ones are there?” or “How many groups of ten?”. Make sure they understand what each number within the number stands for (i.e., the 1 in 18 is a ten and not a one).
- Represent a number in different ways: expanded form, standard form, word form, numeral, etc. Worksheets can help build this connection.
Reading and Writing Numerals
- Build numbers with playdough in a math center. Even something as simple as this playdough numbers activity here.
- Print numbers from 0 to 9 daily in different ways – in booklets, on whiteboards during math lessons, etc.
- Draw numbers on paper and give students do-a-dot markers or bingo dabbers to dot numbers.
- Trace numbers frequently and repeatedly to build coordination and correct form.
- Catchy number poems help students visualize and remember number formation. Use your whole body to make actions or draw in the air.
Reading and Writing Number Words
- Have number posters with both the numeral and number word on it.
- Include number words on spelling lists so that kids learn to read and spell number words.
- Use a number of the day routine to teach and focus on one word each day.
- Match numbers word cards with numeral cards ora number of counters or clips.
- Play memory with a partner with number words and numeral cards. Look for pairs (twelve and 12).
- Build recognition and speed with mental math flash cards. Flashcards to kids, and they race to call out what they see (tally, numerals, number words, etc.).
Counting On and Back
Teaching kids to count on and back is good for laying the foundation for addition and subtraction.
- Give students a number and a group of small objects to count. Ask, “How many more do I have?” given 7 to start and a group of 9 counters to count on with.
- Play games with small objects and decks of cards where counting on is needed.
- Play a group counting game called ‘Around the World.’ Say a number, and each person counts on and says the next number as you go around the circle.
- Use small objects to count on or back from a number given (cubes, counters, dice, etc.).
- Put numbers in backward order. Take the ordering activities seen above and reverse them.
- Fill clear or open containers with different-sized objects for kids to guess. Keep them simple and work up in difficulty and size of objects. Smaller objects and bigger containers are usually harder.
- Create an Estimation Station,” where containers are set up with objects inside. Kids can take a close look and make estimates.
- As a whole group activity, grab a pile of objects to show quickly. Cover them and have kids make guesses.
- Play ‘Show & Hide’ with a partner. Use a cup and put some small counting bears inside. Quickly show a partner, and then hide them. They make an estimate, and then you count together to check.
- Use a chart or number line to compare numbers.
- Use small objects to make comparing easier. Say “Show 11 and 15 with cubes”. Ask, “Which number is smaller?”.
- Teach the symbols < > and = and what they each mean. Use the alligator strategy (The alligator likes to eat the bigger number) to remember the signs and what they mean.
- Create number towers. Kids use cubes to form towers to represent numbers. Compare two towers to see which is the tallest and, therefore, the bigger number. The alligator eats the bigger tower.
- Compare numbers with math tools and indicate the correct symbol on clip cards. As kids become fluent, they should recognize the correct symbol without support.
Math Teaching Resources for K-2
The Mindful Math curriculum by Proud to be Primary includes detailed lessons that can be broken down into whole-group mini-lessons and small-group instruction. It also has various independent math practice options, such as journals, warm-up task cards, practice sheets, centers and games, and assessments.
Kindergarten Mindful Math Curriculum
Mindful Math is a comprehensive math curriculum for kindergarten that was designed to be teacher and student-friendly. It was created to give teachers a ready-to-teach math curriculum that is fun, engages minds, and leaves students knowledgeable and fluent in math concepts.
First Grade Mindful Math CurriculumMindful Math is a comprehensive math curriculum for first grade that was designed to be teacher and student-friendly. It was created to give teachers a ready-to-teach math curriculum that is fun, engages minds, and leaves students knowledgeable and fluent in math concepts.
Second Grade Mindful Math CurriculumMindful Math is a comprehensive math curriculum for second grade that was designed to be teacher and student-friendly. It was created to give teachers a ready-to-teach math curriculum that is fun, engages minds, and leaves students knowledgeable and fluent in math concepts.
You can read more about the Mindful Math program available for Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade HERE.
FREE Number of the Day Poster
Want to create an effective number sense routine that leads to fluency with numbers to 20? Start today with the FREE Number of the Day poster kit.
Click the image below to download your poster kit!
Even More Hands-On Math Activities
8 Quick and Simple Math Assessments for K-2
4 Kid-Friendly Independent Math Practice Ideas for K-2
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