Making math concepts engaging and active is key for our earliest learners. From DIY manipulatives to fun games, the list below will help your students practice those essential math skills in a playful, exciting way! Most activities are easily adjusted to meet your grade level's needs.
1. Shape Pathway Sort
Take your old shape scavenger hunt to a new level by adding shape pathways on the ground! As students bring their objects to the sorting area, have them step on that particular shape on the floor to get there. This extra step will help reinforce children's understanding of each shape!
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2. Building 2D & 3D Shapes
For students in your earliest grades to those entering middle school, Play-Doh is always a hit! Use it along with popsicle sticks to create 2D and 3D shapes! Start with templates or increase the challenge by having students create shapes from memory.
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3. LEGO Symmetry
Help students learn about the concept of symmetry by creating with LEGO Bricks! Divide a base plate in two with tape, then create an image on one side for a child to mirror on the other. For a greater challenge, encourage the student to create both matching sides!
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4. Nature Symmetry
Natural items are full of reflective (mirror images) and rotational symmetry (the same around a center point). Challenge kids to find examples of symmetry outdoors! Use the items you find for more fun with math like sorting exercises, making patterns, or adding to counting collections!
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5. Tally Mark Dominoes
This is a fun classroom math game that can be adjusted for each small group's needs! Students play a traditional game of dominoes with a twist: instead of dot patterns on each side, one side of each domino has a numeral and the other has a number represented by tallies.
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6. Loose Parts Number Exploration
Encourage students to represent numbers in different ways through this Reggio Emilia-inspired activity. Children will use loose parts and natural materials to count or build numbers. Leave this out year-round for students to revisit as they learn larger numbers and new ways of representation!
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7. Number Puddle Jump
Build number recognition and practice counting skills through active learning! Rather than the basic hopscotch grid, encourage students to jump on numbers written on "puddles." Adapt this to your elementary students' needs by using them to practice skip counting!
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8. Missing Number Clip Sticks
This popsicle stick activity is the perfect way to introduce number lines in the early elementary grades. Write a set of numbers on the stick, but leave one out! Write the missing numbers on clothespins for students to use to complete the series.
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9. One More, One Less
Help your students master the basics of ordering numbers and simple addition through this one more, one less activity. Students will choose a number, then represent one more or one less than that number using items like buttons, erasers, or whatever you have on hand!
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Addition & Subtraction
10. Domino Addition
Elementary math students will learn about addition from this fun activity with dominoes! Students draw one domino and add each side together, then record their equation on a sheet of paper.
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11. Domino/Uno Match-Up
Practice the skills of composing (part+part=whole) and decomposing (whole=part+part) numbers through this game utilizing Uno cards and dominoes! Children choose a number from a deck of cards, then find a domino whose two sides add up to that number!
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12. Nature Patterns
Integrate math into recess time by hunting for nature treasures and using them to create! Patterning is just one essential math skill that can be practiced using natural items. Use them, again and again, to sort, make shapes, build numbers, and more!
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13. Movement Patterns
Explore the concept of patterns through movement! Use this video as a starting point, then try coming up with your own patterns to repeat or complete. This is a great way to get your children active as they learn!
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14. Egg Carton Patterns
A simple DIY activity for creating patterns! Your student can use any type of colorful materials you have on hand to create the patterns on the cards. The holes in the egg carton promote one-to-one correspondence. Increase the challenge by drawing more complicated patterns to try!
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15. Grab It
Grab It is a fun math activity that you can use again and again in your elementary classroom! Simply have students grab a handful of objects, estimate the amount, then actually count them. Have them record the results to see how close they can get!
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16. Volume Estimation Jars
Explore the concept of volume through estimation jars! Given several pre-measured jars, have students estimate the volume in a mystery jar. Try graphing the answers as a class to see who got closest to the true volume!
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17. Muffin Tin Arrays
Work on those pre-multiplication skills in the older grade levels by using muffin tins to create arrays! Give students cards with particular arrays to create, or allow students to create their own and write out the equation for what they made.
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18. Array City
Integrate math and art by creating an array city! Students will demonstrate their knowledge of arrays by creating them from the windows of city buildings. This collaborative math activity is perfect for displaying on your bulletin board!
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19. LEGO Fractions
Use different sizes of LEGO bricks or Duplos to explore the concept of fractions! This is a perfect way to continue making elementary math fun, even in the oldest grades!
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20. Pool Noodle Fractions
This activity with pool noodles is another way to turn-key math concepts into hands-on fun! Your students will explore and compare fractions by stacking the noodles on top of one another or arranging them side-by-side. They create a helpful visual for students just beginning to understand fractions!
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