We know that learning to count and identify numbers through twenty is a key foundational math skill for our students. How do we make this important learning engaging AND effective? With counting and number recognition activities!
My Big Why
We’ve got such an important job as math teachers of kindergarteners and first graders. Counting and number recognition are the building blocks for almost all math to come. Counting and number recognition activities set our students up to confidently identify and subitize numbers. By using repetition and various visual representations we give our students opportunities to:
- see amounts represented in different ways
- subitize number chunks within 10 and 20
- count within ten
- count teen numbers
Counting and number recognition activities are a great way to introduce math centers and materials at the beginning of the year and can be used all year long. These centers offer ample visual support for our early readers and emerging bilingual students, too. The beauty of working on counting and number recognition activities during centers is that our students get LOTS of engaging practice using these skills in different formats.
Let’s take a peek at some of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE counting and number recognition activities. And you can bet that my students agree!
Counting Ice Cream Puzzles
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream…. counting puzzles! If there’s one way to hook our students, it’s with a deliciously fun activity. With Counting Ice Cream Puzzles students mix and match scoops of ice cream on top of cones to match numbers with their visual representations. Students get to practice identifying number amounts on fingers, dice, dominoes, and ten frames, as well as identifying the number and word. This activity works great for independent work, partners, or small groups!
Counting Bingo Boards
Are you looking for a fun small group of whole class counting and number recognition activity? Cue Counting Bingo Boards. With these bingo boards, the teacher calls out the number and the students search for that amount on their card. It might show up as fingers, ten frames, dominoes, dot arrangements, dice, or pictures. The first one to five in a row gets a BINGO!
Spin & Color
Spin and Color is a favorite independent counting and number recognition activity. Students will need a clear spinner or a pencil and a paper clip and crayons, colored pencils, or markers. Students give the spinner a spin. After identifying the number, students find a visual of the matching amount and color it in. Students keep spinning until all of the numbers are filled in. Spin and Color pages come in a variety of number ranges through 20 to meet the needs of all of our students.
Counting & Number Recognition Mega Pack
Bump is a class favorite counting and number recognition activity! To play this partner game, students will need a clear spinner (or a pencil and a paperclip) and ten colored counters for each player. (My students also love playing bump with mini erasers as counters). Students take turns spinning the spinner and covering a corresponding spot on the gameboard with their counter. The first player to place all ten counters on the gameboard wins… But there’s a catch! If a player has one counter on a space and another player spins the same number, they can “bump” their opponent’s counter off of the board. Players can also “lock” their spaces and prevent their counters from bumps by putting a second counter on a space. My students LOVE these moves! The amazing thing about Bump is once our students learn the rules, they can play this game all year with so many topics.
Number Identification Dominoes
My students absolutely LOVE dominoes! And my teacher heart loves that Number Identification Dominoes work well for partners and small groups, as well as an independent activity! For this version of dominoes, each domino depicts 2 different numbers, either with the written number or an image of an amount. Students begin with a stack of dominoes. The first player lays down one domino, then players take turns laying down dominoes, being sure to connect matching amounts. Play continues until everyone has used all of their dominoes. My students really watching the trains of dominoes grow and change over the course of the game.
Counting & Number Recognition Puzzles
Looking for another counting and number recognition activity that works for independent, partner, AND small group practice? Counting and Number Recognition Puzzles fit the bill! With four-part puzzles, students will match 4 variations of the same number:
- Ten frames
As students work to solve these puzzles, they’ll get practice seeing and identifying numbers in multiple forms. With puzzles for all numbers one through twenty, I can select a few “just-right” puzzles for my students, or they can work on solving all of them at once.
Pocket Chart Matching
If you’ve got a pocket chart to spare, this counting and number recognition activity will be a hit for your students. You could also attach magnets or tape to the cards and students can work at a wall, whiteboard, or easel to get those same gross motor benefits of working on a vertical surface! And of course, Pocket Chart Matching will work on the ground or a table, too. Each number 0-20 is shown with five separate cards with corresponding images. Students work one card at a time matching the numbers and placing them in corresponding rows on the pocket chart. This is another activity that is self-correcting, so when all the cards are used up students can make sure they’ve placed them correctly with 5 in each row and one of each type of visual.
Kaboom is another class favorite game that you can teach once and play all year long. To set up Kaboom, you’ll need to glue the Kaboom cards onto the end of popsicle sticks and place them card side down in a cup or jar. Students take turns pulling a stick from the jar and saying the number on the stick. As play continues, students keep their sticks. But watch out! Mixed into the jar are KABOOM sticks. If you pull a kaboom stick, you say Kaboom and put all of your sticks back in the jar! I just love a never-ending game! And the kids love it, too.
Counting & Number Recognition Mega Pack
Number Jars is a simple, yet fun counting and number recognition activity. A great option for independent, partner, or small group practice, Number jars are simple to prep and easy to change up by varying the manipulatives and objects that you use. (Think: all those seasonal mini erasers that we know and love!)
To prepare, print, cut out, and laminate (if that’s your jam) the twenty number jars and gather twenty small manipulatives. Students lay out the number jars, identify the number on the jar, and count out that amount of manipulatives to put in the jar. This is a great one for counting and practicing one-to-one correspondence will really physical objects. Students that are ready for an extra challenge may practice grouping numbers in the jars by 2’s, 5’s, or tens, or string by even and odd.
I’ve got one more counting and number recognition activity for you, and this one uses clothespins for an added OT and fine motor benefit! With Clip Cards, students show their answers by clipping the clothespin onto the right answer or answers. For Clip and Flip, students count the objects, clip their answer, and then flip the card over to see if they got it right. (Self-correcting independent activity for the win!).
And for clip images cards, students identify the number in the middle of the card and clip ALL of the images along the sides of the card that match that amount. And for one more round of fine motor practice, students can take off the clips so the cards are ready for the next person!
I hope these counting and number recognition activities give your students some fun ways to practice this critical early math skill!