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Building Number Sense

Building Number Sense | Gryphon House

Most of us learned about mathematics long before we began writing out equations and analyzing word problems. Math for toddlers is not complex arithmetic or even simple addition and subtraction; rather, it is learning what numbers are and how they are used. This idea is called number sense. Math activities for preschoolers focus on basic counting, what different numbers mean, which numbers are more and which are less, and how numbers are used in everyday situations. The knowledge that three blocks is the same number as three balls or three trucks is vital to learning more advanced math and can be exciting and mind-blowing to young children.

There are plenty of simple, fun ways to introduce this revolutionary concept to children in the classroom. Below are some math activities for toddlers from The GIANT Encyclopedia of Math Activities. These exercises strengthen number sense and set the stage for future exploration in mathematics.


One Dozen Equals 12

Number Sense Skill: Number constancy


  • Muffin tins
  • Egg cartons
  • Cookie sheets
  • Playdough
  • Playdough tools (plastic knives, rolling pins, cookie cutters, etc.)
  • Plastic eggs
  • Plastic cupcakes

What to Do:

  1. Discuss the idea of a dozen with the children; tell them twelve items make a dozen. Ask if they have ever seen a dozen eggs in a carton or a dozen cupcakes in a tin
  2. Out loud, count 12 plastic eggs and place them in the carton. Do the same with the cupcakes in the muffin tin
  3. Encourage the children to make a dozen Playdough shapes


Cars on the Road

Number Sense Skill: Number identification


What to Do

  1. In advance, make ten road strips by horizontally cutting five sheets of the black construction paper
  2. Cut out double yellow lines and short white lines from the other construction paper. Glue these strips to the paper to make what looks like a road
  3. Using fluorescent paper, cut out the numerals 1-10
  4. Glue one number onto each road strip
  5. Encourage the children to place the same number of toy cars on the road strip as the fluorescent numeral indicates


In the News

Number Sense Skill: Numerical order


What to Do

  1. Give the children a newspaper and a set of numbers to look for (e.g. 1-5, 1-10)
  2. Ask the children to cut out the numbers and glue them in numerical order on a piece of paper
  3. Ask the children to read the numbers to you. Encourage them to practice counting them
  4. Make a counting book with the pictures children cut from the newspaper
  5. Give each child seven pieces of paper. Have them write page numbers (1-5) on five of the blank sheets
  6. Have the children paste one picture on page one, two pictures on page two, etc. For older children, ask that all the pictures on each page be related in some way (e.g. all boys, all girls, all animals, all food items)
  7. Help them label each group of items on the page
  8. Have the children create a front and back cover for their book using the other two sheets of paper
  9. Punch holes through all the pages and thread yarn through the holes to bind the book

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