Fun with Numbers

Fun with Numbers

Lots of our continuous provision areas are set up to allow the exploration of numbers in some way or other.

I thought I would share some of the activities we have completed recently…


Missing numbers…

I made a some number strips, but left out missing numbers. The children used magnetic letters to fill in the gaps. As the strips are laminated, it would be possible to use a dry wipe pen to write the missing numbers on instead.

Missing numbers... from Rachel (",)

Sorting dominoes…

Simple cards with numbers written in the corners. The children place the dominoes on once they have counted the spots. With some children, I was able to talk about simple number sentences; others just counted the total number (remember, my children are aged 3 & 4).

Counting domino spots - from Rachel (",)


A simple dice game…

Throw the dice & place a glass nugget in the corresponding number column. If you provide a dice with spots on (instead of numbers) the children need to be able to recognise the number in order to place the nugget in the correct column. A numbered dice would support numeral matching, for those not yet recognising numbers.

Dice mat game from Rachel (",)

Dice mat game from Rachel (",)


Counting (& symmetry) with loose parts…

I love loose parts, & added a bowl of numbers to a table with them. When I worked with them in this area, we used the numbers to make simple counting & matching games. There was also the opportunity to create symmetrical patterns.

Counting with loose parts from Rachel (",)

Of course, without me there, some just chose to create transient art with the loose parts, but there is still mathematical thinking happening…

Loose parts & frames from Rachel (",)


Pebbles & an old wooden game board…

I let the children do what they wished with this. The majority of them used one-to-one correspondence by placing a single stone in each square. Great for fine motor skills too!

Game board & stones from Rachel (",)

Game board & stones from Rachel (",)


Button Numbers…

Super simple! Numbered cards with spotted patterns for subitising. Wherever possible, I try to follow the same patterns that are on dice or playing cards, as this supports that quick recognition of ‘amount’. The activity was to support fine motor skills as well as number recognition.

Button numbers from Rachel (",).

Counting beads…

Christmas beaded garlands were bought in the sale for this activity. I snipped them into different lengths (1s, 5s, 10s & 20s). With me there, we counted them & used numbered glass nuggets (permanent marker used to number them) or wooden numbers, to sort & identify them. Without me there, they made pretty patterns…

Counting beaded garlands from Rachel (",)


Ordering numbers in the sand…

A number is written on each lolly stick for them to identify & order. The children only did this when working with me. The rest of the time they were buried in the sand…

Ordering numbers in the sand from Rachel (",)


Choosing a number & threading the corresponding amount of beads…

This was a finger gym activity & is self-explanatory! The children could choose between using a wooden number or more numbered glass nuggets. I have also drawn spots on the back of these nuggets as they are larger.

Number recognition & counting with beads - from Rachel (",)


More one-to-one correspondence, this time with a patterned game board…

This is a great board for talking about pattern. The children made up simple games with each other or just used the board to create more patterns.

Patterns on a game board from Rachel (",)


Play dough and Number…

I saw this activity on The Imagination Tree (fab blog!) quite a while ago & put the same resources out for the children to explore.

Counting in the play dough - from Rachel (",)


Using fingers to write numbers in coloured sand on the ‘lightbox’…

Together, we wrote numbers & also matched the laminated cellophane numbers with the correct amount of nuggets.

Sand & numbers on the light box from Rachel (",)


Waters in the number tray…

The children had the opportunity to identify & match the numbered corks (I used a permanent marker) to each gel number, however, they only really did this when I was working with them.

Numbers in the water tray from Rachel (",)


Numbers can be added to anything!

What activities do you do to support number recognition & counting skills?

Thanks for reading!


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  1. Gorgeous activities as always. My children love the play dough activity too. Have added numbered candles before too with this. I do the button number activity too but never thought to add spots to the card. Will get making!! I know what you mean about the children burying in the sand. I buried coins with numbers on as buried treasure and they loved digging for the gold! Especially the boys. Have been thinking about how to add number to building area other than numbered blocks!- any ideas? Rach x Thanks again for inspiration. Love getting my email updates!!

    • Yes, we use numbered candles with play dough, too. They often snap though. Heavy handed children!
      The boys in my class would love the buried coins idea. We’ve had a pirates small world this week & they loved the maps etc
      Will have a think about numbers in the building area. Hmmm…

  2. Loved your activities! Planning to go back to teaching preschool and am definitely in the beauty/natural materials camp, so learning more about Reggio and such is a great joy.
    AFA Ms Shaw’s question, just wanted to say that unit blocks and other types are, of course, already a mathmatical manipulative. There are many concepts to learn that do not use numerals but encourage numerical thinking! You probably know this. 🙂
    But with numerals, you could–Draw a huge numeral on the floor w/tape or chalk (if on a rug) and have them build on it, have them pick a number out of a basket and use that many blocks to make something (expect towers first, then enclosures, then more complex ala stages of block building development), count the blocks in a structure they’ve made and take their picture with it, then write the number on the pic and make a book with the pictures and numbers–program it something like “Kyle used 3 blocks!” “Awisha used 10 blocks!” You could graph how many blocks they used and leave the graph up in the building area.
    Just some ideas!

    • Great ideas, thanks Chris! 😀

  3. Hi Rachel,
    I am a teaching assistant and have just started my second year in the foundation stage after many years in key stage 1 and 2. I am so excited by your ideas and am so grateful to have discovered your website. I can’t wait to try them out with my new class.
    Many many thanks

    • Thank you for your lovely comment, Debbie! Made my day!
      Have fun! (“,)

  4. Hi Rachel,

    Are these resources available to print?




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