• Rebecca Carlisle Cothern

5 Number Sense Activities that will Boost your Scores


The most fundamental math skill you will ever teach a child is number sense, “fluidity and flexibility with numbers,” (Gersten & Chard, 2001). Without good number sense students will not be able to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. Number sense is so important it is necessary across all math domains (algebra, geometry, statistics, etc.) Sadly, 1 in 5 U.S. adults lacks the math competency of a middle school student—leaving them unqualified for most jobs.

In a recent study of 180 seventh-graders conducted by the University of Missouri, researchers found that, “those who lagged behind their peers in a test of core math skills needed to function as adults were the same kids who had the least number sense or fluency way back when they started first grade.” (Neergaard, 2013) With this research we can see the importance of developing math sense early and often with the students we teach. This is why I wanted to share 5 number sense activities that will change these statistics in your classroom.

1. Spin a Number practices one of the first steps to number sense, identifying a numeral. In this game students will spin the chosen spinner on their level identifying numbers between 1-20. Then race their cars to the finish line. This is a quick game used to build fluency with number identification, an important component to number sense.

2. Stamp and Count is a simple game to show number identification with matching quantity and numeral writing. This game combines three basic beginning stages of number sense into one activity. Once practiced in isolation these skills can be combined to show a complete understanding of these skills.

3. Compose and Decompose Numbers to understand the parts and the whole of each number. For example a 7 has a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 in it but the quantity does not have an 8, 9, or 10. Understanding the quantities within a number is an often overlooked but necessary skill of number sense. Being able to compose and decompose numbers will make addition and subtraction easier.

4. A Place Value Chart can help students understand 2 digit numbers and visually see how the number can be divided into tens and ones. We want students to see and understand that an 11 is a 10 and a 1 not just a 1 and a 1. It is about the quantity not just the numerals. We must teach students what the numerals represent. These numerals are abstract not concrete and must be taught as such.

5. Quantity Rulers are one of my favorite resources. These can be used in a variety of ways throughout the development of number sense. Use the quantity rulers to match quantities with written numerals, put quantities in numerical order from greatest to least or least to greatest, or to compare two quantities using greater than, less than. The learning potential doesn't stop here. Use quantity rulers to compose and decompose numbers, solve addition problems, or missing addends. The possibilities are endless with this awesome resources.

As you can see the 5 activities follow a progression from basic number sense to complex. Although it is not a full list it does give a great place to start with your students. To get these and other resources check out my product,"Identifying numbers 0-20 (Kindergarten Counting, Cardinality, and Number Sense)". Enjoy!


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© 2013 by Rebecca Carlisle Cothern. All rights reserved.