Everyday math play in preschool

Everyday math play in preschool

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!


  • maryanne @ mama smiles Posted February 26, 2012 12:37 pm

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

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted February 26, 2012 12:48 pm

      Thanks for helping me Maryanne!

  • Bren Posted February 26, 2012 2:36 pm

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

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted February 26, 2012 10:36 pm

      Terrific Bren!

  • Deb @ Living Montessori Now Posted February 26, 2012 4:43 pm

    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. Posted February 26, 2012 10:36 pm

      Thanks for joining me Deb – I really appreciate it!

  • Janice @ learning4kids Posted February 26, 2012 10:51 pm

    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!

  • andiejaye Posted February 26, 2012 11:47 pm

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

  • Trisha Posted February 27, 2012 12:16 am

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

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  • Chris Posted March 3, 2018 2:34 pm

    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!

  • Chris Posted March 3, 2018 2:37 pm

    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)

  • Chris Posted March 3, 2018 2:39 pm

    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!)

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  • Jen Posted July 2, 2018 2:03 pm

    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!

  • Marie Posted July 19, 2018 1:31 pm

    Where did you purchase the link pattern cards?

    • Deborah Stewart Posted July 19, 2018 3:00 pm

      They came in the box when we purchased the links.

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