Math Activities

Mathematics is about numbers, shapes, and patterns. It is counting, measuring things, discovering similarities and differences, and solving problems.


  • Choose books from your local library that encourage counting, sorting, number recognition, etc.
For suggestions on books to choose view our collection of books for math

Mathematics around the Home

Math is a natural part of our everyday lives. Children and adults use numbers, count and estimate amounts, measure, sort, and use math in many other ways around the home. You can use the following ideas to help you and your child find the math in familiar situations.

  • Kitchen Mathematics Helping in the kitchen can be a fun way to explore math. Together you can plan meals, measure or count out ingredients, set the table, count and divide servings, and use a timer.
  • Plan an indoor or outdoor picnic. What will you need? How many spoons and forks? How many plates and napkins? Do you have enough food for each person who will be at the picnic?
  • Make Ants On A Log by spreading peanut butter or cream cheese on a celery stick. Add raisins or nuts on top. Count the pieces as you add them.
  • Prepare a Math Fruit Salad. Choose fruit to go into salad. How many pieces of apple should go into the bowl? How many slices of banana? Peel an orange and together count the number of sections. Add the fruit to the bowl, counting each type as you go. Mix and enjoy!
  • You can find all kinds of shapes in the kitchen. Look at containers, cereal, crackers, and pieces of fruit. What shape do you see? Try nibbling a cracker or cookie into a circle or triangle.
  • Sort and DiscussHelp sort laundry, silverware, and toys. Talk about the groups you make. How are the objects in each group the same? Why do things belong in one group and not another? Think of different ways to sort the collections.
  • Enter a Number Enter numbers on a phone, remote control, calculator, or microwave. Read the numbers aloud together. Wen in elevators, note the numbers on the buttons. Which floor do you need to go to? Look for other numbers around the home.
  • Comparing SizesWhat's the tallest thing you can find in your home What's the shortest thing? Can you find two things that are about the same size?
  • Collect nonbreakable containers that are different shapes and sizes, such as cottage cheese containers, plastic bottles, and juice containers. Use the containers to pour water back and forth in a sink or bathtub. Try to find our which container holds the most, the least, or about the same amount.

Early Number Sense

Matching numbers with sets of objects helps your child develop a sense for a number. For example, knowing that the word three or(or the numeral 3) means a collection of three objects. This concept may seem obvious to adults, but this is something young children must learn through experience and practice.

  • Egg Carton Count Cut an egg carton in half and label each with numbers 1-6. Count out the correct number of an item (pennies, macaroni, beans, etc.) for each cup. As the numbers 1-6 are mastered you can use an egg carton that is not cut in half and work on numbers 1-12. You can then increase to an egg carton that has 18 cups. Working on numbers 1-18.
  • Playing Games Play a variety of games that use dice, spinners, or cards. These will give practice with counting, comparing, and reading numbers. Dominoes are another fun math material to play with.
  • "Uno". Removing the skips, reverse, wild cards, draw fours, draw twos, etc. Leaving only the numbers. While playing the child(ren) can learn number recognition, matching, colors, and turn taking."
  • Number Hunt Let your child hunt for numbers in a magazine or newspaper! They can circle the numbers or even cut them out.
  • Finding Numbers Ask each child to find a written number in the room. Help him or her read the number.
  • Using Numbers Ask: How have you used numbers today? Encourage children to think about varied uses of numbers, such as counting children for attendance, looking at the clock, finding a room number, and so on.


  • Encourage children to identify coins by name as they place them in a piggy bank
  • Let your child count out coins for purchase at a store.

Mathematics Outdoors

    Explore math together with your child when you are at the playground, in your yard, taking at a walk, or playing sports. You can measure, count, compare, find and create patterns, and more.

  • Out and About You can find numbers in many places. Look for numbers while taking a walk around the neighborhood: Addresses, license plates, price tags, billboards with phone numbers, and signs with speed limits are just a few places to find numbers around you.
  • While on a walk, collect different kinds of leaves. Sort you collection by shape. Are the tips of the leaves round or pointy? Look for other natural objects, such as acorns, stones, or shells. Find different ways to sort them.
  • Look for shapes and patterns as you walk. Try making a pattern using small stones, leaves, or sticks. Ask someone in your family to continue your pattern or make up a new one.
  • Try moving in a pattern while on your walk. For instance, big step, little step; big step, little step; big step, little step...; or hop, hop, run; hop, hop, run; hop, hop, run... .
  • Fund with Measures Throw a ball as far as you can. Use a stick to mark where the ball landed. Now throw it again and mark the spot. Which throw was longer? Which was shorter? Can you think of a way to measure the length of the throw, such as using steps, a string, or a tape measure? You can also compare and measure long jumps.
  • On a bright sunny day, have someone trace your shadow on the sidewalk with chalk. Try doing it in the morning, at noon, and late in the afternoon. How does the size of the shadow change at different times of the day? Does the shape change? How does the size of your shadow compare to your actual size?
  • Playground Math Count the number of steps on a slide ladder, the number of rungs on the monkey bars, the number of baby and big-kid swings, or the number of leaves on a fallen branch.
  • Create an obstacle course on the playground. Use position words to give directions and use a timer to see how long it takes.
  • Look for shapes on the playground. Can you see a triangle shape when you look at the slide from the side? What shapes do you see in the slide ladder? What other shapes can you find?
  • Use measure and/or comparison words to describe how tall the jungle gym is, how long the slide is, and so on. For example: "The jungle gym is taller than Daddy." "The slide is a long as this jump rope."
  • Push an empty swing. Count how many times it moves back and forth before it becomes still.
  • Use numbers and counts as you play hopscotch and sing jump-rope counting rhymes.

Measurement Comparisons

    Initially, children may just use the words big and small to describe size, without understanding different aspects of sixe, such as length, weight, and capacity. Help your child become familiar with comparison language, such as short, tall, taller, tallest, heavy, light, holds more, and holds less. Cooking activities are excellent for exploring measurement.

  • Ordering Shoes Compare the length of your shoe with the shoe of another family member. Remember to line them up at the heels. Compare your shoe with a different family member's shoe. Now line up all the shoes in order by length.
  • Sizes in Stories Share a book or story that features size or measurement, such as any version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff or Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
  • Comparing Containers and Materials Fill several different-size bottles with various materials, such as water, rice, and sand. Use the bottles to explore and talk about aspects of size. Which bottle feels the heaviest? The Lightest? Which bottle holds the most? How might we find out? Which do you think is heavier, water or rice? how could we find out?
  • Shopping Sizes At the grocery store, choose two apples and hold one in each hand. Which feels heavier? Use the grocery scale to see whether you were right. In the checkout aisle, line up the cans in your cart from shortest to tallest. Arrange the boxes of food from smallest to largest.
  • Animal Sizes: Bigger Ask: Which is bigger
    • A dog or a hamster?
    • A monkey or a gorilla
    • A cat or a lion


Be on the lookout for opportunities to practice counting. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much your child enjoys counting things. Count our loud together so your child can follow your lead as the numbers increase. Keep these counting activities brief, fun, and playful.

Children enjoy the rhythm and pattern of reciting numbers in order (rote counting) as well as counting actual objects (rational counting). Encourage them to count as far as they can. Gradually help them go a little further with their counts. Counting up or doing a countdown (10, 9, 8, ...) is a way to fill transition times, like getting ready to leave or waiting for a turn.

  • Funny Counts Begin counting 1-5. Count in unison 1 to 5 (or higher) in funny ways. For expample:
    • Count in slow motion
    • Count as if you are underwater
    • Count like a baby
    • Count like a giant
  • Classroom Counting Be on the lookout for natural and purposeful opportunities to count. For example: ,
    • How many children are here today?
    • How many children have finished painting?
    • How many puzzles are on the shelf?
  • Counting Shoes and Other Things -Encourage counting frequently in daily routines. -Line up shoes in your closet and count them. -Try lining up and counting other things, such as soup cans in the pantry, or apples on the table. -Lining up objects can help you keep track of which items you have already counted. -Show a number of fingers on one hand. Have children copy with their fingers and say the corresponding number.
  • Create games around counting Such as counting the number of doors, windows, and telephones in your home.
  • Count items around the house Pennies, spoons, cotton balls, etc.
  • Counting and Washing When washing your hands, count up to a high number, such as 12, 14, 20, or higher as you rub the soap bubbles between your hands. This is a great way to make sure your hands get clean and to how high you can count.
  • Counting Books Read a counting book together. There are lots of other wonderful counting books. Search the library for one that sparks your interest.
  • Count and Move Liven up walks by hopping or skipping a certain number of times. Say a number and show it by using your fingers. Then do that many hops or skips. Change the number and the movements. Try jumps or spins! Remember to do one movement for each number. This helps with coordination as well as counting.
  • Pocket Change Empty a family member's pocket or purse and count the total number of coins. Don't worry about coin values or separating different types of coins. Try again in a few days. Are there more coins or fewer coins than the last time?
  • Counting All Around When you walk up a flight of stairs, count them as you go. Count them again as you go down. Is it the same number?
  • Move Your Age Ask individual children to tell you how many years old they are. Then have the child do a movement of his or her choice that many times.
  • Sing Counting Songs and Rhymes Such as "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" or "This Old Man" while waiting for a bus, riding in the car, or going for a walk.
  • Count and Tap With children sitting in a circle, count aloud slowly as you walk around the circle. Stop and tap a child to have him or her say the next number. Begin again and stop at a different number. You can also do this when children are standing in line.
  • Point and Clap Point to a child and show him or her a number of fingers on one hand. Ask: How many fingers am I holding up? Can you clap that number of times?
  • Simon Says Pick a movement for children to do a certain number of times. For example, Simon Says:
    • Tap your nose 4 times
    • Nod your head 3 times
    • Touch your toes 5 times
  • Clap and Count Have children listen and count as you slowly clap between 1 and 5 times. Call on a child to say how many claps you did. Children can take turns being leader and clapping a number for the group to count.
  • Counting Around Transition Ask children to count off to 5. The child whos says "5" can transition from the group. Continue counting around from 1 until all children have moved to another activite.
  • Step Counting Count how many steps it takes to walk from the front door to the kitchen. Now try from the front door to your bedroom. Which took more steps? Which is farther? Does the number change if you use giant steps? What about tiny baby steps?
  • Counting around Town Together, count the numbers of floors in a building, cars in a passing train, cars lined up at a traffic late, ball bounces, jump rope turns, and so on.
  • Countdowns and "Count Ups" Count during "waiting" times, such as waiting for a bathtub to fill or waiting for a turn with a toy. You might count up to see how quickly you can clean up your toys. Or, you might have someone do a countdown (10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Blast off!) to see whether you can get your jacket or shoes on before "Blast off!"
  • Look and Count How many windows are there in your home, or in one or two rooms of your home? How many doors are there? Are there more windows or doors? You can also count other things, such as faucets, lamps, or mirrors. It might be fun to guess how many, then count.

Numbers about Me

Children enjoy thinking about and using numbers that relate to themselves, such as their ages, birth dates, phone numbers, addresses, height, weight, and so on. This will help them understand the many ways we use numbers.

  • Number Collage What's your favorite number? See how many times you can find the number in magazines, then cut out the numbers and use them to create a collage.
  • How to Find Me Look outside your apartment or house and try to find your address. Look on your phone and see if you can find your phone number. If it's not there, write it one a sticker to put on the phone. Can you remember any of the numbers?
  • How Big Am I? Do you know many inches you are, or how many pounds you weigh? How can you find out? You can record the information and measure again in a few months.
  • Age Snack Try counting out your age in snacks, such as four apple slices or five crackers.
  • How Many in My Family? Count how many people are in your family. What if you count pets? You can draw a picture of your family on another sheet of paper


Help your child become aware of shapes and patterns all around. Geometric shapes, such as squares, circles, triangles, cubes, spheres, and pyramids are part of everyday objects. For example, a tabletop may look like a square or circle, and the sides of its legs may look like rectangles. Not all shapes will match exactly.

Children often enjoy hearing "grown-up" words for 3-dimensional shapes, but don't expect them to consistently use these words at this point.

  • Shape Search Can you find any of the following shapes in real around the house?: circle, square, triangle, rectangle, sphere, cube, cylinder, rectangular prism, pyramid. Ask you child to find shapes by saying. "Find something that is round or something that is triangle."
  • Street Signs While riding in the car, identify the shape of street signs.
  • Shape Book Read a picture book together and talk about the shapes you see in it. View selection of books for Math for suggestions.
  • Shape Hunt Look through newspapers and magazines for pictures of different geometric shapes. Cut them out and glue them onto pages to make your own shape book.
  • Shape MoldsTry making shapes out of play dough. Make flat shapes by pressing the dough down on the table. Or make 3-dimensional shapes that you can hold in your hand. You can also use cookie dough and cookie cutters to make shape cookies.
  • No-Cook Play Dough Recipe 1 cup salt, 3 cups flour, 2 Tablespoons cooking oil, About 3/4 cup water (enough to make a semi-firm ball), Food coloring or unsweetened drink mix (optional). Mix all the ingredients. Refrigerate the dough. This is non-toxic, but is not intended to be eaten.

Sorting and Classifying

We sort things into categories every day: laundry, mail, food items, and coins are just a few examples. When we sort we notice similarities and differences, create categories, and compare groups. Sorting can be a fun way for your child to become involved in helping around the house while practicing important math skills.

  • Recycling Sort If your community has a recycling program, you might sort newspapers, cans, and plastic bottles into separate bins. Be careful of any sharp edges.
  • Sorting in the Kitchen Together, sort the items in the kitchen cabinet or pantry. You can sort by categories, such as canned food, boxed food, and bagged food. Or, use your own categories for sorting. Fresh fruit can also be sorted and grouped by type.
  • After washing dishes, you can help organize the silverware drawer by putting all the forks in one section and all the spoons in another.
  • Laundry Time Help sort the laundry by color or other categories: for example, school and play clothes, or child and adult clothes. When the wash is done, make piles of folded clothes for different family members. Can you match socks into pairs?
  • Mail Delivery Make pretend mail by writing family members' names on several envelopes, or use real mail. Sort the mail by the names on the envelopes and then deliver it.
  • Shoe Sort Put your child's shoes in a pile and have them match the pairs of shoes and then put them away. Or, combine your shoes and the children's shoes into one pile and then sort them and put them away.
  • Clean-up Categories Help to clean a room by sorting toys, clothes, books, and other items into categories. You might use baskets or shoe boxes for different types of toys, such as toy cars, doll clothes, or stuffed animals.

Ordinal Numbers and Sequencing

    We use ordinal numbers, such as first, second, third, and so on, when standing in line, playing a game, or participating in a race. we also put things in order and think about sequence when we plan a meal or a trip. There are lots of sequencing puzzles, card, and games that your child might enjoy

  • Toy Line Up Ling up several toys. Which is first? Second? Third? Rearrange them and try again.
  • Car Race Have a toy car race. You can mark off the start and finish lines by putting down masking tape or a strip of paper. Each player races a car. Another person is the judge and decides who comes in first, second, and so on.
  • What Happened Next? Before you go to sleep, talk about your day. What was the first thing you did when you woke up? What was the last thing you did when you woke up? What was the last thing you did before getting in bed? What were some things that happened in between? You can also talk about the sequence of events in a story? What came first? What happened next? What happened last?


Encourage your child to notice patterns in music, nature, language, and art. Together you can search for sound and color patterns throughout the day. The more you child becomes aware of patterns, the more he or she will find.

  • Musical Patterns Listen to a sound pattern and then repeat it. Clap! Clap! Tap! - Clap! Clap! Tap! Take turns making sound patterns using your feet and hands.
  • Play some music and listen to the beat. Now clap to the beat. Do you think that's a pattern? Try copying the pattern another way. Such as with a snap or a stomp.
  • Movement Patterns Create a pattern as you walk together: step, step, hop; step, step, hop; step, step, hop... .
  • Patterns Around the House Try arranging red and black checkers into a color pattern. You can also make patterns with different-shape crackers or pasta, colored cereal, or two different sizes of cans. If the cereal or pasta has holes, use yarn to string them in a pattern for a necklace of bracelet.
  • Arrange your toy cars, stuffed animals, or other toys into a pattern. Ask a family member to guess what comes next.
  • Patterns in Books Read a book with patterned language - words or phrases that repeat or rhyme. As you read together, pause and see whether you can guess what comes next. Also look for books with patterned borders, such as shapes or objects that repeat around the edge of a page.
  • Make patterns! Point out striped patterns, review that patterns repeat, and make your own patterns! (An example might be: white bead, blue bead, white bead, blue bead, and so forth.)


  • As the child identifies the shape of street signs, you can also ask them what color the sign is.
  • As the child is creating a pattern using beads, blocks, or bear counters, etc., you can ask them "what color is the _______?"


We use terms and phrases such as over, under, behind, next to, in front of, near, and far all the time. By hearing and using position words in everyday situations, your child will develop a sense of spatial relationships, which is an important part of geometry. Use a variety of position words while playing or going for a walk or ride.

Initially, children will find it easier to respond to clues rather than provide them. So you should be the one to begin giving the clues. After listening to your clues for some time, your child will be ready to give clues, too.

  • Over and Under Make a tower of different color blocks or of different types of canned food items. Which one is on the top? Describe the one on the bottom. Is the green block over or under the red block?
  • Traveling Directions When walking or traveling in a car, bus, or train, use position words to describe the things you see. For example, "we are next to the river now." "There's a huge tree above us!" or "Did we just go under a bridge?"
  • Look for familiar sights on the way to places you go frequently. Point these out as you pass them. For example, "We're going over the big hill. That means we're almost at Grandpa's house!"
  • Toy Hunt Hide a toy while a family member closes his or her eyes. Give clues using position words, such as "it is on the bookshelf," or "It is next to the chair."
  • You can also play I Spy using position words. Give clues such as, "I Spy, with my little eye, something that is behind the lamp."
  • Position Books Read a book together that features positions and spatial relationship language. Discuss what those words mean

Number Stories

    Number stories can emerge from everyday events, such as taking a walk or setting the table. Children can use fingers or other counters to find the answer to a number story. Your child does not need to know addition or subtraction facts yet. What is most important is that your child explores numbers in real settings and builds critical-thinking, problem-solving, and listening skills.

  • One-More and One-Less Songs Sing a song in which you add or take away one animal with each verse, such as "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed," "Five Little Ducks," or One Elephant."

    One Elephant
    One elephant went out to play
    On a spider's web on day.
    She had such ENORMOUS fun,
    That she called for another elephant to come.

    Two elephants went out to paly...
    Continue adding up as high as you wish.
  • More or Fewer? If you take one apple from a pile of four apples, will there be more left than when you started? Or fewer left?
  • A bookshelf has five books on it. If you pick up two books off the floor and put them on the shelf, will there now be more or fewer books on the shelf? Will there me more or fewer books on the floor? Try these and other More of Fewer problems. You can act out the stories with the real objects.
  • Animal Number Stories When playing outdoors, look for animals such as squirrels or birds. Make up a number story about them. For example: Two squirrels are in a tree and another squirrel joins them. Now how many are in the tree? Or, There are 3 birds on a telephone wire and 1 bird flies away. How many are left sitting on the wire?
  • Number Stories All Around Use familiar objects and events as the basis for number stories to tell each other and solve together. For example: We have 2 guests coming for dinner. How many plates will we need all together? Or, There were 6 juice boxes in the package and my brother and I each drank 1 juice box. How many are left?
  • Number Stories in Other Stories Use books and their illustrations as the basis for number stories. You can make up number stories from the text or illustrations of almost any picture book.

Concept of part to whole

  • Doing puzzles
  • Make your own puzzles by cutting apart magazine pictures and putting them back together again. You can also take the front of cereal boxes and cut them apart to create your own puzzles.

Grocery Story Mathematics

A visit to the grocery store is a great opportunity to explore math with your child. Numbers abound there, and it is full of shapes, arrangements, and measures to discover and investigate.

  • Shopping List Plan a trip to the grocery store together. To start, make a list of things you need, such as 2 cans of soup, 1 loaf of bread, 4 lemons, and so on. As you shop, discuss where you will find the items on your list.
  • Numbers All Around Look at the aisle numbers as you shop. What do they sell in Aisle 3? Where do you think Aisle 4 is? Also look for other numbers in the store, such as prices, sizes, and weights. Talk about what information the different numbers provide.
  • Counting Fun Count how many different types of pasta you can find. How many eggs are in a carton? How many juice boxes are in a package? Look around for other things to count.
  • Which is Biggest Look for items in the store that come in different sizes. Which is biggest can of peaches? Which is the smallest box of cereal? How many different sizes of milk containers do you see?
  • Shape Search Look for different shapes throughout the store. Can you find items that remind you of circles, ovals, squares, rectangles, and triangles? They might not be the exact geometric shapes, but that's okay.
  • Using the Scale Look for a scale in the produce department. Weigh a bag of apples and a bag of oranges. Which one weighs more? What else can you weigh on the scale?
  • Checkout Sort Sort the items in the cart. You might group together the things that are cold or frozen and things that need to be packed carefully, such as eggs or fruit. Or, sort using your own categories.
  • Bagging and Unpacking Try counting how many items go into one of the bags at the checkout counter. When you get home, unpack that bag, counting the items as you go. Was it the same number?

Ideas for Summer Activities

    Continue to explore math informally with your child over the summer. Refer to the suggestions here for ideas. Playing games together, such as dominoes, checkers, card games, and board games is a fun way to develop many math skills.

  • Growing Math If you grow fruits and vegetables in a garden, compare how they look and feel once they are picked. You can also do this with food from the store. How big are they? How heavy? How many seeds do they have?
  • Plant some seeds in small cups or an egg carton and watch them grow. You can plant corn, beans, radishes, or even watermelon seeds. Keep track of their growth by marking the height on a long strip of paper or a wooden stick every few tables. Or, every few days you might cut a piece of string that is as long as your plant and tape the strings to a sheet of paper in order.
  • mathematics at the Beach Make some footprint or handprint patterns in the sand. Then ask a friend to copy or continue your pattern. Describe the pattern together. Switch roles so someone else makes a pattern for you to extend.
  • Search for seashells and rocks on the beach. Sort them into categories like large and small or smooth and jagged, or make up your own categories. You can use the shells and rocks to create patterns. See if a friend or family member can continue the pattern. Next, try to continue a pattern they make.
  • Take a variety of sizes of nonbreakable buckets or cups to the beach. Pour sand or water into the buckets or cups. Count how many cups it takes to fill a large bucket.
  • Notice the waves in a large lake or the ocean. How high can you count between one wave and the next? Is it the same amount of time between waves> Are the waves the same size?
  • Drop a pebble into a small pond and watch the ripples. How many can you count before they disappear.