Research shows that the most effective way for children to learn concepts is to experience them physically. These activities from Jump into Math will actively engage preschoolers as they explore new math concepts. Whether you use these math games during circle or group time, substitute them for traditional lesson plans, or use them as a supplement, you can be sure that children are moving in leaps and bounds towards understanding math!
1. Beanbag Toss
This simple activity helps promote both number recognition and eye-hand coordination!
1 or more beanbags
Number 0-9, each on a large (at least 8 ½” x 11”) card (at least one set of each number)
Note: If the concept of zero is too advanced for the children in your classroom, begin with the numeral 1.
- Scatter the number cards on the floor or ground in no particular order. Depending on the size of the area and the number of cards and beanbags available, invite one child (or more) at a time to stand at a designated spot and toss a beanbag onto a number. (To begin, the children should stand as close to the cards as necessary to ensure success.)
- When a beanbag lands on a card, call out its number.
More to Do
- Eventually, you can challenge the children to call out the number on which their beanbags land.
2. What’s My Line?
This activity provides more opportunity for the children to experience lines. And because it contributes to the ability to replicate physically what the eyes see, it also falls under the content areas of art and emergent literacy (children need to replicate physically what they see in order to write).
Posted drawings of straight, crossed, curved, and crooked lines
- Discuss each of the lines with the children, assigning each its appropriate name (although you can’t expect the children to recall them at this point).
- Invite them to replicate each with their bodies or with individual body parts.
- Name each as you point to it.
More to Do
- Divergent problem solving, in which there is more than one response to any single challenge, is vital to creative- and critical-thinking skills. You can give children the chance to experience divergent problem solving by encouraging them to “find another way.” With this activity, for example, if a child demonstrates crossed lines with the arms and you present the challenge to find another way, the response might be crossed fingers.
- Call out the words “straight,” “curving,” and “crooked”—in various orders and at different tempos—challenging the children to match their body shapes with the word.
- Challenge the children to create the various lines with partners.
- Invite the children to find examples of the different lines throughout the room. Then ask them to show you with their bodies the kinds of lines they find. For example, if they point out that a pencil lying down is a line, challenge them to show you the kind of line (straight) made by the pencil. If they point to the top of the wastebasket as a curved line, ask them to use their bodies to depict that kind of line.
3. Subtracting Steps
This activity requires children to first recognize a number then to count it in steps forward. Additionally, it becomes an exercise in subtraction as the children are asked to recognize a number and to take that many steps backward.
The number 1-10 on individual cards
- The children line up side by side at one end of the room.
- Stand facing them at the opposite end and hold up one of the cards for them to see (it’s best to start with low numbers).
- The children then take that number of steps toward you, counting aloud as they walk.
- At random times, before holding up a card, you say, “Now subtract…” This indicates the number of steps they should take in a backward direction (subtracting from their forward progress). Again, you should begin with low numbers.
More to Do
- When the children are developmentally ready, you can aske them to tell you the number resulting from their actions. For example, if they’ve taken five steps forward and then two steps backward, you can ask them what the result of five minus two is.
- To give the children an opportunity to practice different locomotor skills, replace the steps with jumps or hops. (Other locomotor skills may be too challenging to perform in a backward direction.)
If you're looking for more math games that will get your preschoolers moving, pick up your copy of Jump into Math today!