Number Sense


Number Sense was our very first math unit of the year.  And, while on our curriculum map, the unit is ending, we all know that first graders need number sense and number value all year…am I right?  A firm foundation in number sense and number value will allow our young mathematicians to be able to conquer and excel at all future math standards that they will soon encounter in upcoming school years.  I did not rush this unit, and I plan on revisiting and incorporating all of these activities into our math stations, mini lessons, and guided math lessons from now and until May to make sure that these skills and prerequisite skills are firmly established.

Number Sense activities for the classroom. First grade number sense picture books, printable, anchor chart and more!

Number Talks

Every single day we kicked off our math block with a quick number talk.  We talked about how many days we have been in school and represented the number in different ways (see the anchor chart below-scroll down in a bit).  We also reviewed counting forward and backwards from a set number 1-120.  This was a great way to just get our brains thinking about numbers and preparing for the next hour of math time.


Picture Books

Number Sense picture books for teaching primary students about numbers and counting.

There are so many awesome picture books that promote number sense and value.  Here are a few of my top pics. After we read these for our mini lesson or small group read aloud, I offered these for my students to reread in their book baskets.  I ordered two sets of each from Amazon so I can keep a set in perfect condition on my shelf and let my students love all over the other set in their independent reading baskets.  Click here to shop all these picture books from Amazon.  This will take you to my Amazon suggestions.  Click on picture books and add a few to your cart!   (Psss…want to learn more about read to self in my classroom and how my book baskets work?  Click here and keep both tabs open.)


Anchor Charts

Number sense anchor charts - anchor charts for number sense and ways to show a number

I love making anchor charts with my students.  Even when they don’t come out Pinterest perfect.  There are many flaws to this chart, but it is the most used anchor chart in our room right now.  When we do number talks to start our math block, students are constantly twisting and turning on their spot to see this anchor chart and another way to represent a number that we are focusing on.

Find a few other anchor charts that I love and recreated for my classroom by following my Pinterest Board devoted just to anchor charts.  Click here!


Center Activities

Number sense activities for first grade.  Number sense games and centers along with number sense and early place value books.

Nearly all of the center games and activities that students are doing independently, I introduced in small groups. Rarely, have I been able to just set a station in a bucket and my kiddos be able to understand and complete the activity.  However, these play-doh mats were a different story!  I was able to show the example on the document camera or project this picture on the board to explain, and the kiddos ran with it!  They knew exactly what to do and begged to play again the next week.  This station will certainly be revisited again and again the next couple of months.

A few of our other stations are Bump!, Spin and Cover, and these 100s Chart Puzzles.  Want to get a few of these activities for your own classroom?  Click here to learn more about this mini-bundle.

Guided Practice

Tally mark free download. Free download for tally mark lesson and teaching number sense.

Teaching first graders is either super SIMPLE or incredibly DIFFICULT.  There is no in-between.  My students either caught on quickly or struggled to the post-test.  We might be tallying until college…ok, that might have been a bit dramatic, but you get the point.  I then decided to find a way to make creating tallies more hands on.  They needed to be able to count and create their tallies to make them understand that the “close the gate” or the five that crosses over is actually a tally, or represents a number or item they counted.  We love special treats in our room too so this gummy worm math activity was perfect!  Students pull a card, count the tallies, write their number, build the tally with gummy worms, represent the number with dots, write the number before and after, and then build the number with snap cubes.  This guided math lesson went SO well!!!  The struggling learners were able to see and understand in a way that tallying with a pencil just didn’t provide.  Great news, this activity is in my VIP Resource Library. If you are a member, just head over by clicking here to download.  If you aren’t, don’t stress, just click here to sign up!  I used a ton of math mats just like this for our guided practice or guided math lessons the past few weeks.  We tallied, counted, and represented numbers in all sorts of ways.  Click here to get the free download!

My higher math groups were ready to create their own graphs.  I gave them a hand full of counters and let them sort, tally and graph their own data.  They then went back to their math journals to write questions about their graphs and make an answer sheet.  The next day, a classmate answered their questions and they had to “grade” their work.  Another challenge activity that I used with my higher leveled students was allowing them to generate their own questions and collect their data by surveying their classmates and friends at recess.  They tallied and then created their own graphs.  We had a ton of fun enriching and learning more!



It is all about having the right manipulatives when teaching number sense!  Luckily, I have a multitude of materials to choose from that were all created by ETA Hand2Mind.  They are certainly the company to go to for all things math manipulatives.  These amazing foam dice have been used DAILY!  I’m not even kidding.  I used them to differentiate between my high-medium-low groups.  I could do the same math mat and just swap the dice for higher numbers.  I loved that they not only included the numbers, but also tallies, dots and ten frames.  If you would like to pick them up, head over by clicking here to check them out along with many of the other number sense manipulatives that I used with this unit as well!


Hey, I'm Meghan!

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