Tree Math Stories | Early Math Activity

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Featured in The Path to Early Math: What Preschool Teachers Need to Know by Ingrid Crowther, EdD, this Tree Math Stories activity allows children to manipulate the leaves on the tree as they draw cards with various number stories on them. In her book, Ingrid explains that in order for children to understand addition and subtraction, they need a lot of practice forming visual computations in fun and realistic ways, as well as working with concrete materials that they can manipulate. Find tons of stimulating early math activities like this one in The Path to Early Math.

Tree Math Stories


  • Felt, foam, or cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Containers
  • Card stock or index cards
  • Marker 

What to Do

  1. Cut bare tree shapes out of felt, foam, or cardboard. Make one for each player.
  2. Cut leaf shapes out of felt, foam, or cardboard. Put twenty leaves in a container. Make one container of leaves for each player.
  3. Make two decks of cards. On each card, write a number story, such as 4 + 3 or 5 – 2. Make one deck with addition number stories and one with subtraction stories.
  4. Give each child one tree and a container of leaves. Put the addition deck in the middle of the table.
  5. Invite the children to take turns drawing an addition card. They then solve the addition problem by putting the required number of leaves on their tree and saying the total number of leaves.
  6. When all the cards are gone, they can start with the subtraction cards. They take off the number of leaves to solve the problem. They can play until a player has no more leaves left.