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Math Activities to Build Number Sense

teaching number sense

If you’ve been in an elementary classroom for any period of time, then I’m sure you know the importance of hands-on activities! It’s a must, especially in Kindergarten – just like teaching phonics digitally!  Plus, it just makes learning that much more fun and engaging. Young students need a concrete method of understanding abstract concepts such as numbers, counting and cardinality. There is no better way to accomplish this than by hands-on practice with number sense activities. There are so many good ways for students to learn about making numbers, but you’re probably wondering “What is the BEST way?” Let’s jump right in!

Number Sense Means Flexible Thinking

Each student is unique, and their learning needs are too! This is why it is so important to offer students a wide variety of methods to compose numbers. They need flexibility when it comes to thinking about numbers. Mental math opportunities are very important to develop strong number concepts. There are many interactive lessons and activities that students can use to grow and strengthen their awareness of numbers and counting. Your job as a teacher is to provide your students with the tools and flexibility they need to make and build numbers and to provide them opportunities to think flexibly about numbers. They need many different strategies in their math tool belts to compose or decompose numbers in multiple ways. (Hint Hint! Think manipulatives! I love rekenreks!)

activities to develop number sense

Differentiated Learning For Number Sense

I talked about developing students’ mental math flexibility, but what about differentiating their learning? It is just as important! When students begin to develop number sense concepts, they also begin to develop a greater understanding of part-part-whole relationships. So exciting, right?! However, this is BEST accomplished by differentiated hands-on learning. I value and understand this approach so much that I created worksheets for numbers 5-10. These numbers help young student build a strong foundation in number sense that will stay with them literally through the rest of their lives. Check them out! 

I have found that they work great for kindergarten and first-grade centers. Hands-on-learning like this will help students learn the composition of numbers but in an engaging way! What is especially great about this resource is that it’s differentiated for below, average, and high-level learners. I’ve covered it all, so you don’t have to! Break out some fun manipulatives for students to use, that are engaging but also easy on the bank account. My personal favorites are two-colored counters, cotton swabs, bingo dabbers, and oh-so-fun seasonal erasers or other fun trinkets

Number Sense Activities

Students need options, remember? And I love that when teaching counting and cardinality, boy are there ever options! Students need every experience to identify and count as possible. There are great whole-group, small-group, and individual activities to try with your kiddos! You can practice counting aloud as a class (count by ones, fives, or even tens), pair students with a partner and take turns counting, or use a visual aid like a number chart with your whole class. I even love introducing students to number-related songs. So fun and easy to remember!

Using Manipulatives to Build Number Sense

Another great option is for students to make numbers with quantities of shapes or objects! This is especially great for center-based activities or even small groups. Students can count and match numbers to objects like counter cubes, blocks, counting bears, straws, and even dominos. Using objects that are brightly colored is a great way to liven up a simple counting activity for your students. For small groups, you could also consider, ten-frame clip charts, puzzles, or even create a counting chain link! How do you teach number sense in your classroom? 

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