## Number Sense Activities for kindergarten and First Grade

Do you need math strategies and tips for building number sense to 20 in Kindergarten and first grade? In this blog post, you will find a number of math sense activities and resources that include: books, materials, math manipulatives, and even FREE activities! I am excited to share my favorite number sense activities with easy ways to help increase your students’ number sense skills.

Let’s first go over some number sense terms, then I will show you some number sense activities that will help you teach number sense in a fun way.

### What is number sense?

In simple terms, number sense is a person’s ability to understand, relate, and connect numbers. Children with strong number sense are able to think fluidly and flexibly about numbers. Our goal is for a child to discuss, use and understand numbers. This understanding helps students identify number relationships in order to solve mathematical problems.

The term numbers sense includes number recognition, simple counting, number relationships, decomposing numbers, and writing numbers. Having a strong number sense at an early age is essential for a child’s ability to understand the more complex skills they will encounter later in 1st grade or 2nd grade.

### Why is number sense important?

Number sense “encourages students to think flexibly and promotes confidence with numbers.” Young children who do not have number sense will struggle to enjoy math. It will be hard to establish a foundation that is needed for basic arithmetic. Having a strong number sense allows children to manipulate numbers and be flexible in their approach to solving mathematical equations. They can identify patterns in numbers in order to solve problems more efficiently. (Devlin, Keith. “Number Sense: The Most Important Mathematical Concept in 21st Century K-12 Education.” Huffington Post, Oath Inc., 1 Jan. 2017)

Students must first experience these math skills as part of our daily math lessons. Then these activities can become one of our math center activities.

### What is Subitizing?

Subitizing is the ability to identify small groups of objects without counting them. This is a foundational skill in the development of number sense. We use subitizing when we roll a die and instantly know the number by looking.

This important mental math skill aids in solving problems, as well as understanding numbers. Research states that students use **perceptual subitizing **with objects under 5. Beyond 5 objects, students begin **conceptually subitizing** by combining or counting on.

Subitizing is a beginning skill in the number sense umbrella. According to research, a strong understanding of numbers continues to develop over time through the exploration of numbers, visualizing numbers, and relating to numbers in different ways. Having number sense provides a strong foundation for:

- Understanding number and quantity relationship.
- Knowledge of number symbols and vocabulary.
- Engaging in systematic counting, including sequential order
- Recognizing number patterns and identifying missing numbers.
- Ability to solve simple math equations.

(Hornigold, Judy. “Number Sense.” Maths No Problem, 14 Sept. 2017)

## How do you teach number sense?

### Counting

In preschool and kindergarten, we do this on a regular basis. It is critical because, in the early years, children need to hear what numbers sound like, and this oral counting will help them learn number order. When we add math manipulatives such as bears or counting chips, students can connect this rote counting to the counting of objects.

#### Counting Skills Activities

- Counting with your students by starting at one and counting on.
- Use a hundreds chart so students can visually see the numeral. Point to each number as it is being counted.
- Similarly, use a number line and point to the number as you count. Using a laser pointer can be extremely helpful.
- Practice one-to-one correspondence by using math manipulatives.

### How do you use dot cards with your students?

Flash a card briefly. When a child thinks they know the number shown on the card, they blow the number into their fist and keep their fist pressed against their mouth. This is a simple way to keep competitive kids from blurting the answer.

You will want to watch for those kiddos who are counting the dots one by one and also see how quickly each student determines the number.

Call individual students and ask what number they saw. Don’t be surprised if you get different responses! Put your poker face on and be prepared to receive different responses.

Then show the card again and call on several of your little learners to tell you how they knew what number was on the card.

### Number Sense Math Talk

From time to time, document the student responses.

You might hear kids say:

- I saw 4 and 2 more. I know 4 and 2 are 6.
- I counted them all.
- I saw 4 and counted on, 5, 6
- It kind of looks like a mess 6 on a dice!
- I saw a 5 like on a dice, then just one more is 6!

Documenting student responses helps other students see various strategies. Each of these responses gives you insight into the child’s understanding of numbers and their mathematical thinking. Then you will repeat this activity with different cards.

You will want to start with fewer dot cards and build up to more complex combinations once students have gain experience with math talks.

Naturally, you will have your students practice these skills with their math partners.

### Matching Numbers to Quantities

We want to provide different activities that allow students to connect a number of objects with a written numeral. Providing a variety of ways to practice this skill will keep it fun and game-like! Using ten frames is a great way to build place value understanding. It is also an important step in composing and decomposing numbers.

### Why are ten frames important as students develop number sense?

Ten frame activities offer a great way to help students organize numbers so they can easily be counted. They aren’t simply just memorizing numbers or counting without meaning. It shows kids the value of numbers. Additionally, ten frames help anchor numbers to 5 and 10. This is one of the important skills students need as they begin working with larger numbers.

Students then add cubes to their shared ten frame to reflect the number they rolled.

Then they state, “I have {the number of total objects }. I need { the total amount still needed } to make ten.” This is learning fun at its greatest and this is one of the math games they love to play over and over.

Besides practicing basic math facts in a hands on way, you can also quickly see which students can count on from the last given number and which students need to recount them all with each turn.

### You can find our whole-group math curriculum by clicking below:

## Number Sense Activities for Math Centers

Again, once you have taught and practice skills together as a class, now it is time for students to “overlearn” these skills during math center times.

I will link these activities to the photos so you can find them.

#### Numerical order, subitizing, and counting practice!

#### Math Counting Puzzles

Students will put the number puzzle together, then practice writing the numeral. Students love this fun center.

#### Math Book Response Activities

We love reading books that help students with number sense. Here are few you might already have in your classroom math book bin. You will find Amazon Affiliate Links below.

#### Every Buddy Counts by Stuart J. Murphy

Here is a summary of the book from Amazon:

E*very Buddy Counts is perfect for teaching counting to pre-K through kindergarteners. You can start with one little hamster and keep counting past six slinky fish, eight favorite playmates, and more—all the way up to ten cuddly teddy bears. With buddies, counting is fun!*

I have made this math center activity as a companion activity for Every Buddy Counts.

#### Animals on Board by Stuart J. Murphy

Here is what Amazon had to say about this book:

*Animals on Board is perfect for teaching adding to first, second, and third graders. Ride along with trucker Jill and her dog as they add up the animals passing by on other trucks. But these are no ordinary animals, and they’re bound for a surprise destination! *

These are the extension activities that you can use in your classroom with Animals on Board.

#### Easy Prep Math Centers for Building Number Sense

Here are a few more center activities that you just need black ink for! Super easy prep! WHEW!

## Learn more about Math

You can find more blog posts and free files about math by clicking:

You can find our entire math scope and sequence by clicking:

## Free Number Sense Activity

Here is a free and fun Making 10 math center activity you can use in your own classroom!