Thursday, 5 November 2015

Number Sense Warm Ups

Ever since I started teaching, my Number Sense Warm Up has been my absolute FAVOURITE time of day! This year, after moving to Prep, I have spent a HUGE amount of my spare time thinking up new ways to teach number sense through games (thank you Pinterest!)

Here is a little look at some of my favourite...

All About...

Another version of 'Number of the Day' type activities. I loved creating these with my students at the very beginning of the year. This was a great opportunity to build key mathematical vocab right from the word go like tally marks, tens frames, counting fingers, numerals and collections. Initially we completed this activity as a brainstorm on the blackboard every morning during Circle Time, and I later transferred the work to a number poster.

These numbers sat on display in our Daily Focus board for a few weeks, after which we hung them up across the room and used them as a reference point for our counting and numberline activities. They have also come in handy this term when we have been talking about different ways to show numbers to 20.

Apple Picking

This comparing numbers game has evolved over time and it has to be our favourite warm up of all time! Initially, the students simply raced to collect as many apples (scrunched up red paper) as they could and placed them on their apple tree (cardboard cut out). They then counted their apples and wrote the matching numerals on their boards. As they held up their boards, we compared who had more or less and talked about how we knew.

In another version, I swapped out the whiteboards for a paper plate numberline. Before beginning the Apple Picking we placed the numbers in order and used mathematical language to decide where each number should be located. The game played the same, however once the students had counted their apples, they stood by their number on the numberline. This change made the more or less discussion much easier for the visual learners in my class.

Since then, we have added 'Clara the Cow' who loves to eat apples. After we decide who has more apples, Clara eats a few apples from the tree and we have to count-back on our numbeline to see how many are left. Fun introduction to early subtractions :)

We have played this game with penguins, fish and a pesky cat who loves stealing fish, and banana trees with greedy monkeys! Very easy to manipulate and the kids love it!

Fish 'n' Build

This game was really to help cement automaticity in recognising numbers and knowing what it would look like on a tens frame. 3 students at a time would fish for a cardboard fish with a number on back from their pond. Once they had pulled out their fish, they read the number and built it with sports markers in their tens frames. We of course used this opportunity to discuss the different ways a number can look in a tens frame, as well as who has more or less.

Missing Number

Easy as set-up, and a great opportunity to develop mathematical vocab with little ones. After I set up the numberline (folded over bits of heavy card), the kids hid their eyes and I placed an animal in front of a number. The goal of the game is to have the students identify the missing number AND explain how they know. For example, "The missing number is 2. I know because 2 comes after 1 and before 3."

Mystery Number

For this warm up, I use the same numberline as in 'Missing Number' and bring out 2 animals. I choose a number and place the animals on each end. As the students guess numbers, I answer with 'higher' or 'lower'. Each time, the students identify which animal needs to move and we state the new number range for the mystery number (ie. between 3 and 6).

Number Hop

This one is great for the beginning of the year. 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.

Number Match Up

Another easy self-explanatory game. If you would like to try this out, you can download a set of cards for FREE from HERE. I have played by placing the picture cards upside down and having students take turns to turn them over and place by the correct number (This would work well in a pocket chart).

Toss 'n' Build

This game plays very similar to 'Fish 'n' Build' above. The students have a beanbag each and toss them onto a paper plate with a number, then build them in the tens frame (points for integrating gross motor development!)

Where's the Fish?

This is a really simple game that can be used for just about any concept. Just make up cards for each different number (or shape, letter, sight word etc...) and print a small object to hide and a character to search (and make it more fun!) I chose to use a penguin and a fish as I already had these on hand, but some alternatives might be a dog and his bone, cat and mouse/fish, dinosaur and a plant/leaf etc.. Pretty much ANYTHING!

Who Has More?

This is one of the very first games I played with my Preps. All you need are 2 animals, some cards to count out (I used fish), a numberline and cards with 'more', 'less' and 'same' on them. I adapted this game from one found at Little Minds at Work by Tara West. I just chose to swap out picture cards for countable objects. She has a fabulous set of cards you can use to set up the same activity available fir FREE from HERE.

As you can see, I LOVE making fun, hands-on games for my kids and it has made a huge difference in their math skills. They don't even see it as work!

I hope I have given you a few ideas to try out - I would love to hear from you if you do!


  1. Great ideas! Is there a way to follow your blog? thank you, Paula

  2. Hi Paula,

    I have 'BlogLovin' on my iPad which I use to follow my favourite blogs, and 'Blogger' on my computer. You can create an account and just copy and paste the URL of the blogs you wish to follow :)

    I also have a facebook page where I will be sharing links each time I make a post.

    I hope this helps :)

    All the best, Nerida

  3. Hi Nerida

    What an awesome blog post and thank you so much for your very generous sharing :)

    I could not see a "follow me via bloglovin'" button on your blog page. Did I overlook it/miss it?

    Kylie Elizabeth (Kylie M)

    1. Hi Kylie,
      Thank you for you kind words! Glad you enjoyed this post :) I actually have no idea how to add a bloglovin part to my blog! Any chance you could explain how to add one?
      Thanks! Nerida