At play on the math table

At play on the math table

As each new school year comes around, I add a little something here and there to spruce up the learning environment and to give me a little new inspiration in planning our program. This year, I added a new math table…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

This math table was originally a train table. For those of you who are not familiar with train tables, they are simple tables built low to the ground with a ledge all the way around the edge, and a fairly large surface for holding toy train tracks and train sets. Folks often sell their train tables when their young children grow out of train play and I bought one from a local yard sale. It was important to me to look for one with a white surface, not a painted surface. Not one to be limited to what manufactures or others say a table, toy, or even a box is supposed to be used for, I decided to take this old used train table and repurposes it as my math table…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

The train table provides a perfect space for play and exploration. So really it could be used for any kind of table in the classroom but I like it because it has edges to keep small parts from rolling off on the floor and the large white surface makes the best space ever for spreading out materials and creating large, fun, and interesting invitations to play…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

When my students arrive to preschool each morning, there is always an invitation to play set up on the math table. I suppose you could also call this our morning math activity however, my students also use the math table as a place to hang out and talk with each other. They gather around the table and explore the materials and I drop by to give information where needed or to hold conversations about what’s happening at the table…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

The morning math time seems to be when the children are at their best in terms of brain power and attention so the types of learning that goes on through this rather casual approach to math is really quite incredible…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

Someday, I will take the time to go back through the photos of our math table and be more specific in some of our invitations to play but here is a brief overview for now. I change the math table up once a week and then make minor changes as needed throughout the week…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

The children are in the habit of signing in then heading over to see what is at the math table to begin their day. Sometimes what is on the table goes along with a specific unit we are studying such as pizza…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

The math table helps us to focus on a specific skill or to introduce (or reinforce) a specific process or concept such as measuring, patterning, counting, estimating, graphing, and so on…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

Sometimes, the items put out on the math table are inspired by a specific holiday or event…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

Sometimes the invitation to explore math is very simple and on other occasions, I get a little carried away and start to make it a little complicated. I have found keeping it simple is so much better but I still can overdo it now and then…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

I love the size of the table because it invites the children to stretch and reach across. It also is the perfect size for my students to stand rather than sit at. I’ve noticed that standing up to explore is often better for the children who easily get bored or need to move often in order to stay on task…

At Play at the Math Table by Teach Preschool

I like to stop by the math table and sit with my students here and there to talk about math. The conversations seem very casual but in the back of my mind, there is always intention. In the process of teaching my students, I always make sure that I am also contributing to the play or experience rather than causing the children to lose their interest in some way…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

I can’t say enough about how much I have enjoyed having the math table this year. Having a designated math table that the children expect to walk in and explore each day also has kept me on my toes. It has made me really think about different concepts the children should be exploring or mastering and then make sure I am finding a creative and playful way to set it up for them…

At Play on the Math Table by Teach Preschool

Available on Amazon

Links to Grow On

Everyday Math Play by Teach Preschool

Making Math Meaningful by Deanna Pecaski McLennan


  • Sheri F Posted February 24, 2016 8:12 am

    As always I love your posts! Can you share where you got both sets of your block numbers?

  • Dee Posted February 24, 2016 8:56 am

    This is a great idea! And I have a train table in my basement just collecting dust. Is it something I could add to my classroom like after spring break or do you feel it would be easier to start off the year?

  • Jenn Langsdale Posted February 24, 2016 10:21 am

    How fun!!

  • Scott Posted February 24, 2016 10:40 am

    This looks like great fun – wonderful ways to explore math concepts and to just explore. I love the train table (now math table)!

  • Ms. Jessi Posted February 24, 2016 2:23 pm

    This is just so inspiring! Now I need to try and find a space to make a math table! 🙂

  • NanaT Posted February 24, 2016 7:43 pm

    I love love those chunky wooden numbers! Is there a retail source for purchasing those? Please?

  • Mary Catherine Posted February 24, 2016 10:27 pm

    Love it! Our math table used to be a train activity table too (a bit different than yours). I am SO INSPIRED by your invitations involving the tape on the table. Cannot wait to try a few of them out with my students. Thanks, as always! 🙂

  • Faye Posted February 25, 2016 10:08 am

    These are very good math activity ideas! I was lucky to find a train table as well at a sale. For the first few months, it was set up as such until I got the bright idea to pull up the top to see what was on the other side, in which it was blank tan pressed board. I turned it over and started using it for other activities as well. It is also used for check-out lane when, for example, I set up a garden or grocery store, and also used as a patient table for our pet hospital. I would love to have the white surface and may consider painting it one day. These tables are a great resource to have around for so many uses if you have the space for it.

  • Olga Posted February 28, 2016 10:40 am

    So creative idea, I adore such activities and my kids will surely like yours. Thank you very much! ))

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted February 29, 2016 10:34 am

    The blank side is always the best side! LOL! I love all the ideas you are using your table for too!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted February 29, 2016 10:34 am

    I just pick them up where ever I can find them. I find them at places like Hobby Lobby or Walmart.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted February 29, 2016 10:36 am

    I think you can go ahead and add it! The children will love it whenever you are ready to introduce it. What you will want to be gradual on is the kinds of materials you set out to explore. Introduce ideas so that your students will be successful and grow with them!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted February 29, 2016 10:36 am

    I pick them up anyplace I run across. I found a set in the toy section at Walmart and another set at Hobby Lobby.

  • Shawn-Del Posted March 2, 2016 9:16 am

    I love this post. I have the exact same train table and I bought it for the reasons you bought yours. I found it on Craig’s list and it came with trains and a beautiful rolling drawer for under the table. Our table came out of storage a couple weeks ago and now that we’re ready to use it again, I will be turning it into a math center or exploration center. Thank you for the great idea. I love being encouraged to step outside the box.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted March 2, 2016 9:23 pm

    I’m so glad you will put your train table to different kinds of uses. I think you will find the possibilities are endless!

  • NanaT Posted March 8, 2016 5:56 pm
    I think this is the correct source site for those large chunky blocks.

  • Rebecca Posted March 16, 2016 7:36 am

    Hi there they are are called sumblox

  • Lucinda Hawes Posted March 24, 2016 9:49 am

    Another super inspiring post. I don’t have a big table like that but I do set out trays for maths/number/concept exploration. I loved the big numbers on the walls. A quick thought on learning numbers and linking it to personal information or people that help us or emergency numbers could be to have telephone numbers the children could practise calling.
    Dial a friend maybe?? Thank you again. I’m going to be keeping my eyes open for a bigger table now.

  • lizzet Posted March 29, 2017 7:44 am

    Thank you, love it!

  • Cindy Posted March 29, 2017 4:21 pm

    Hi Debra…As always a great post! Thanks for the photos, as I am such a visual person, it helps so much to see the activities in action! Where did you find this table? I could use a normal classroom tables, but there isn’t a ledge around them, and I really like the ability to contain the activities.
    Thank you so much for in the inspiration!!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted March 29, 2017 4:25 pm

    Hi Cindy,
    This table used to be a Train Table. I purchased it second hand from a mom in my area then painted it so it would match the other furniture in my classroom. You can find train tables on Amazon or I see lots of them for sale on Facebook yard sale type groups. I hope that helps!

  • Kusum Posted March 29, 2017 9:34 pm

    Great math ideas!

  • Vicky Grotton Posted April 1, 2017 4:21 pm

    Love your ideas! Would like to have a list of all the ideas you put on it as a quick reference.

    I quickly wrap the flat top with bulletin board paper. I can write on it and change it quickly for the next activity.

  • Ellen Sugai Posted September 3, 2017 12:26 am

    Your DIY math table is the best piece of furniture I added this year! My 3-year-olds love using it to sort out glass pebbles, teddy bear counters, shells and even roll discovery bottles on it. I didn’t have a train table, but I had one of those tables where the table top was made of two boards with a road and scenery printed on it so the children could roll small cars on it. I flipped the boards over, painted them white and now I have a math table. If the children want to play with cars, I just flip the boards over to the side with the road.

  • Deborah Stewart Posted September 3, 2017 6:13 pm

    I love it!

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