Five Engaging Activities for Early Number Sense
We visited my son’s Kindergarten Open House recently, and I loved listening to all of the wonderful activities planned. Of course, the math portion of the presentation interested me most! I couldn’t wait to hear the teacher discuss the strategies she uses! My son’s teacher emphasized early number sense, which she explained as truly knowing what a number means and represents. The number sense basis serves such a critical role in students’ mathematical development.
We only had time to hear about one math strategy they use in Kindergarten. The teacher demonstrated how a ten-frame works, and it made me think about number sense activities I have to share with you! I’ve shared 5 activities below.
Early Number Sense
Number sense has many definitions, depending on whom you ask to define the term. I feel that NCTM’s Principles and Standards defines it well: “number sense develops as students understand the size of numbers, develop multiple ways of thinking about and representing numbers, use numbers as referents, and develop accurate perceptions about the effects of operations on numbers” (p.80). Math educators want to move kids beyond counting and understanding a number as a fixed quantity of objects. Numbers have relationships and patterns and connect to the real world. It is up to early grades teachers to establish this number foundation.
That all sounds wonderful, but how do we accomplish this? Here are five classroom activities that help bridge the gap between counting all and addition.
Activities that Promote Counting On
1. What Number Comes Next?
This is a low prep activity! Place a stack of digit cards on a desk or table. Have the student draw a card and tell which whole number comes next. This activity helps students practice putting counting words in order before to count on from a given number. Students might have counters or a number line available at first for support as they begin to think about not starting at one.
2. Huge Number Line with a Partner
Number lines are a critical tool in the math classroom. Young students often use the jumping frog on the number line to show that they are moving in equal intervals. This kinesthetic activity is engaging and provides a great number line introduction. You need to have a good-sized space in your classroom or right in the hallway. Tape off a huge number line using painter or masking tape. Mark 0 – 10 (or 20 later in the school year) in equal intervals using the tape. A container lid or large laminated circle is perfect for students to move their “point” along the number line. Allow partners to each draw a number card and combine their amounts using the number line.
Example: Partner A draws a 3. Partner A moves the point from 0 to 3. Next, Partner B draws a 4. Partner B moves the point from the 3 and counts on 4 intervals to 7. Both students record these moves on a number line recording sheet. Students trade and Partner B draws first.
3. Apples in the Basket – Teacher-led Activity
Using fake apples or laminated apple cut-outs and a basket, the teacher shows the student(s) that he/she is placing some number of apples into the basket. The teacher might place 5 apples in the basket and have the students count to verify. He/she then places some more apples next to the basket, perhaps 2 apples. The teacher reminds the students that there are 5 in the basket and now 2 more. He/she models counting on by saying “5 in the basket” then points to each of the two apples and says “6 apples, 7 apples” to the students. The teacher continues to model and asks students to help him/her count on from the number in the basket. However, when working with a struggling student individually, the teacher can allow the student to count the apples in and out of the basket together. Then the student can attempt counting on.
4. Apples in the Basket – Independent
Students can complete the activity above independently by drawing a number card that tells how many apples go in the basket. The student should draw a second card to show how many apples are outside of the basket. He/she should use a recording sheet to show thinking. Alternatively, have students create number situations themselves and model them with counters or other manipulatives.
5. Roll and Draw
This final activity gives students a chance to extend the Apples in the Basket activity. First, draw a digit card and record the number on the card. Next, students roll a number cube that has dots to signify the number. Finally, students count on from the digit card the number they rolled on the number cube. Have students record their answer and show how they know their answer is correct. Students may choose to draw the total set or use manipulatives to demonstrate their work.
I hope that these activities give you ideas for classroom! If you would like to have these activities in a printable, ready to go format, check out my Early Number Sense Activities Pack here!