Everyday math play in preschool

How you can promote math concepts in playful and natural ways!

As adults, we can tend to over-think how to go about teaching math to young children but promoting mathematical thinking and basic math concepts can come through all kinds of simple hands-on activities. Here are some of the most common kinds of math activities I integrate into my classroom…


Cooking presents a wide range of opportunities to promote mathematical thinking including measuring, weighing, counting, and estimating. Cooking also provides ample opportunity to use mathematical terms through casual conversation. “We are going to need two eggs.” or  “The recipe tells us we need to measure out one cup of milk!”

Cooking is an inviting, fun, hands-on approach to building math skills. The greater role children can take in the cooking process, the more they will be able to put into practice basic mathematical thinking and skills…


Patterns are all around us and it doesn’t take long for young children to begin to recognize patterns in their everyday world. We use classroom manipulatives like the chains you see below to build our patterning skills as well as other everyday materials like mittens, crayons, blocks, cars, and paper…

We often extend the books we read into patterning opportunities too. For example, after reading the book titled,“Little Blue and Little Yellow” by Leo Lionni, we created felt board patterns with a little yellow and a little blue (and then we added a little red too!)….

We also make action patterns by doing actions such as clapping a rhythm or lining up in an AB pattern (stand-sit, boy-girl)….

Exploring Shapes

Building our ability to recognize and form geometrical shapes and designs is another part of our everyday math experiences…

There are shapes everywhere in our real world. Learning to recognize and identify simple shapes that are in our world then having the opportunity to manipulate those shapes helps us to understand the structure and design of our world…

Opportunities to work with shapes can be found in all areas of our classroom…

As the children play with the materials in our classroom they are able to explore how shapes fit together to create buildings, cars, houses, and other items that have meaning to them…


We work together in large groups to count objects.

And we work individually to count objects…

Each week, we work together to share, organize, sort, and count our math tokens we bring from home…

Math Games

Getting our whole bodies into the math process helps us to reinforce basic math skills as well. We toss the large die to tell us how many steps, hops, or squares we can go…

We create games indoors and outdoors that invite mathematical thinking and large motor movement…


My class has gotten quite good at estimating. The more often the children take a guess at “how many” items are in a pile, jar, or basket then actually follow up with counting the items – they begin to get a feel for the estimating process. The estimated numbers gradually become more closely aligned with the actual numbers…

We use the tokens we collect all throughout the school year in our math bags to create estimation jars. The children enjoy exploring the wide variety of materials we collect and they love it when I set out math materials and they can say, “Those lids/candies/cars or whatever they are came from my house!”

Comparing and Contrasting

It doesn’t take expensive materials to build strong math skills. We can use items like our shoes to compare sizes, color, purpose, make, and type of shoes…


We sort just about everything in our classroom. We sort by color, texture, size, and category. Part of building strong math skills is developing the ability to sort and organize materials so they can be easily counted, categorized, divided, and added. Sorting promotes children’s ability to organize the items in their world so they make sense and are manageable.

The children also make their own sorting games as they explore the materials in our classroom…

We often find opportunities for math through the books we read. We had great fun sorting M&M’s after reading the M&M counting book…

And one of the best ways children develop their sorting skills is during clean-up time. After playing with all our materials, there always comes that wonderful math skill building time of putting everything away  which is a huge lesson in sorting by itself…

These are just a few ways we integrate math into our classroom. The opportunity to explore math is all around us!

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Linky Up!

If you have a math activity or post to share, I would love for you to link up today. I am always on the look out for fun ideas for promoting math in my classroom…


Linky Rules

  • Feel free to add up to 3 links from your blog to the linky below
  • Add a link to at least one post that links back to this post or include the Everyday Math Button in your post.
  • Share only links to math ideas please!
Thanks for joining me today – I can’t wait to see your ideas!
By |2018-12-17T14:33:21+00:00February 26th, 2012|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. maryanne @ mama smiles February 26, 2012 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    I love these ideas! Thanks for creating such a valuable resource =)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 26, 2012 at 12:48 pm - Reply

      Thanks for helping me Maryanne!

  2. Bren February 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this post. So many great ideas! We’ll definitely be trying some of these.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      Terrific Bren!

  3. Deb @ Living Montessori Now February 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Great post, Deborah! Your photos and examples are awesome for illustrating each of your points with lots of wonderful activities in your preschool! And I love how focused the children are on their activities. Thanks for hosting the linky, too! 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks for joining me Deb – I really appreciate it!

  4. Janice @ learning4kids February 26, 2012 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for another fabulous post and linky filled with so many useful ideas. I have added many to our ‘to do’ list, thank you so much!

  5. andiejaye February 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    some great resources here! your linkys always give us such a great toolbox to pull ideas from! thanks so much!

  6. Trisha February 27, 2012 at 12:16 am - Reply

    Oh my goodness! What an awesome post (I think they all are:). Thank you so much!

  7. […] Everyday Math Play in Preschool […]

  8. […] Instead of planning your next math lesson, focus your time on knowing your math categories. As you know the categories for mathematical thinking, you will be better prepared to see the math in your environment. You will be better prepared to scaffold mathematical thinking through the children natural experiences in play and exploration. You will be better equipped to provide creative and interesting math experiences that cover a broad range of mathematical categories such as measurement, estimating, computation, patterning, number sense, one-to-one correspondence, and the list goes on. Build your knowledge of these categories in terms of simple ways to integrate them into student’s play and exploration.  You can listen to the Bam Radio interview here: “Math Phobia; Repeat After Me, “I Am Good At Math,” and you can read a little bit more about how we explore math in my classroom here: Everyday Math Play in Preschool. […]

  9. Chris March 3, 2018 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Ms. Stewart, do you vote? In my class of 3 year olds, I have a big voting board. Wish I had a picture, but the heading is Do you like? and next to the question mark is a picture. Right below is a big push pin with numbers 0-14 (or however many kids in class) printed on green paper and hanging on a ring and a second push pin with numbers 0-14 in red. right below that is Yes in green paper and No in red right stapled to the wall. Below that is a small green pocket chart and next to that is a red pocket chart. Kids decide and come up, read Do you like and ? and decide whether they like what’s in the picture. When we are done, we decide which side has more/less, change the red and green numbers to reflect result, and check number line (below on the wall) to decide which number is bigger/smaller. Lots of learning takes place when we vote!

  10. Chris March 3, 2018 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Ms. Stewart, does your preschool class vote? In my class of 3 year olds, I have a big voting board. Wish I had a picture, but the heading is Do you like? and next to the question mark is a picture. Right below is a big push pin with numbers 0-14 (or however many kids in class) printed on green paper and hanging (a few parts to my comment, see the rest below)

  11. Chris March 3, 2018 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    We also vote on the easel whiteboard. Someone draws a ‘t’ ( by this time in the year several students can do it), then kids come up as we sound out each side (one word each side) and they write the letter (I help as needed). then we vote and I draw X’s starting from the bottom up. then we count, someone comes up and writes the numeral and eventually we decide by the x’s which side has more/less, then which side ‘won’ and we do what the majority want. (a little democracy in action, too!)

  12. […] for great ideas and tools to help your little one get a solid foundation for math skills, visit https://www.teachpreschool.org! These ideas allow kids to move, touch, and play while they […]

  13. Jen July 2, 2018 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Thank you for adding that materials can be everyday items! With our first child, we felt pressured to spend a lot of money on colorful manipulatives; now on our seventh child, we’ve relaxed and just become more creative with the items on hand. Thanks!

  14. Marie July 19, 2018 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Where did you purchase the link pattern cards?

    • Deborah Stewart July 19, 2018 at 3:00 pm - Reply

      They came in the box when we purchased the links.

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