Early Number Sense

Hi there! It is Nerida here from ‘Teaching Outside of the Box’ popping over for a guest blog.

A little bit about myself…

I am a primary trained teacher in sunny Queensland. This is my 4th year of teaching having spent 2 years teaching Grade 1, and now starting my second year with Prep. Last year was honestly the best year of teaching. I absolutely fell in love with teaching the littlest members of our school and now I want to share what I have learned with other Prep/foundation teachers.

The very first post I made on ‘Teaching Outside of the Box’ was all about building number sense in little learners – Pretty much my favourite time of the day in my Prep class! With the beginning of the 2016 school year fast approaching and many more teachers entering the world of Prep, I thought I would share a quick post with some ideas of how to get started with Number Sense Warm-Ups early in Prep.


Before I start with the games, I would like to share a few words of advice from my own experience 🙂

When you start with warm-ups, the idea is to build fluency and understanding (and do it in a fun, meaningful and engaging way!) All these games are super quick and mean that multiple rounds can be played within a 10 or 15 minute session.

When you begin, it is really important to use your judgement to decide how long a session you need. In the early days I have found that 10 minutes is more than enough given their very short attention span (if you have not experienced Prep before, you will understand exactly what I mean in a few weeks!).

It is also great to use any opportunity to have all your students involved at the same time. This may be doing a count down while a race is on, helping to sequence numbers, showing numbers with their counting fingers, writing numbers on whiteboards or with their *magic pointer finger* or building collections with a few blocks or counters.

Anyway, onto the fun!

Apple Picking

This is our absolute favourite this year! You can read all about how I started with this game HERE in my Number Sense post. All you need are some cardboard cut out trees, scrunched up red paper for apples, and whiteboards and markers or some paper plate numbers.

To start with I would throw 8 apples around the trees and build a numberline to 5 with the plates. Then just have 2 kiddies race to collect as many apples as they can and count them. You can then tweak the game to suit your needs by either having the kiddies stand by the number in the numberline, or write their number on a whiteboard.

Fish ‘n’ Build


This is another game I have previously posted about which is super easy to tweak to suit your focus. Kiddies just take turns to pick a fish, read the number and build it.
To start with I would only draw out five frames and use fish with numbers to 5. As your kiddies become more proficient with number recognition and counting turn the five frames into ten frames and increase the fish numbers.

Mixed-Up Numberline



A mixed-up numberline is a great, sumple way to introduce number ordering to little learners. The kids especially love it when you choose some of them to hold up each number and then help them to get into the correct order.

Number Hop



Again, this is a game I have previously posted about. I used Zip-Lock bags and sticky taped them to a Twister mat for an interchangeable playing mat. I would simply call out a number and have a student ‘hop’ on it. We also play 2 at a time using fly swatters which is great for a larger class. I liked beginning with the different ways to show the numbers to allow those students unfamiliar with numerals at the beginning of the year a chance at success.

Subitize and Build


Subitizing is such an important skill for little ones to learn, and the earlier you start the better! In this activity, one child at a time hops up, flips over a card with 1, 2 or 3 pictures on it, and identifies the number shown.

From here, it is great to have all your kiddies engaged by setting up each child with 3 blocks or counters, and a five or ten frame. Alternatively, as shown above, you could draw a chalk 5 frame and add in sports markers for them to show.

Subitize and Write


nerida-subitize -and-write

Using the same subitizing cards, have your kids take turns to flip over a card and then write the number. Again it is great for all the kids to have their own whiteboards to write on. If you do not have these resources you can always have them use their *magic pointer fingers* to sky-write the numbers.

Teddy Race to 10



I saw this activity somewhere on Pinterest and just HAD to try it out for myself! Paper plate numbers to 10, a pocket die with numbers 1-3, and 2 teddies and you are in business! Choose 2 kids to take turns to roll the die and move the teddies along. Have the kiddies identify what number the teddies land on each time.

Toss ‘n’ Build



More from earlier this year! This one could not be easier to adapt to the beginning of the year!

I would start off with five frames again instead of  ten frames and only use paper plate numbers to 3 or 5. This one is a sure-fire hit!

Toss, Turn and Read



Quick and easy and perfect for the beginning of Prep! Place some paper plate numbers face down (Start with 1-3, then 5 and increase as your kiddies become more proficient with number recognition) and have kiddies take turns to toss a bean bag onto a plate and read the number. I love how quick this one is as many kids can have a turn in only 5 minutes!

What’s My Number



I swear, any time you can add teddies into a maths lesson, the kids will just adore it! In this game the kiddies will cover their eyes and you hide a number (turn it over and sit a teddy on top of it), then have the kids use math language to identify the missing number and explain how they know. (“The missing number is 3. I know because 3 comes after 2 and before 4″ or “3 is larger than 2 and smaller than 4″.) Again, as your kiddies become more proficient you can extend the numberline to 10 and beyond.

Where’s the Bone?



This is a ridiculously simple game which my kiddies always enjoyed. Just print a bone (or you could use a cat with a fish or mouse – anything your kiddies will respond to) and have your kids guess where you have hidden it.

Clothing Match Up


This one is pretty self-explanatory. Cut out some shirts and pants and either draw or stick dots onto the shirts and write matching numbers onto the pants. Lay them out no have the kiddies match them up. To make it even more fun you could run 2 washing lines across the room and have the kids peg the clothing up.

Fill the Pond


Another self-explanatory one. Cut out some fish, or frogs, or ducks and have your kids place the correct number of animals in the pond.

Well I hope this has given you some ideas of how to introduce place value warm ups to your little ones in the first few weeks of school.

Hope to see you pop over to my blog soon!



Until then,


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