Teaching Number Sense
Teaching number sense in kindergarten is so important because it is a math skill on which many other skills are built. It includes understanding concepts like more or less in a quantity, that numbers are representative of quantities, and groupings of items. In kindergarten, these skills are useful when composing and decomposing numbers. They are necessary for students to understand addition and subtraction problems. Later on, number sense will continue to have a role in students’ abilities to solve math problems. Essentially, students need to have well-developed number sense in order to be successful in math.
The question becomes how do we as teachers help students build number sense? The answer is simple — the same way we build any other skill, by letting students practice and by giving them time. Kindergarteners need many various opportunities throughout the year to practice counting and grouping and to explore the relationship between numbers and the quantities they represent. This can be done in a variety of ways, and these are some of my favorites.
One-to-One Correspondence Activities
One-to-one correspondence is one of the earliest and simplest ways to get students to begin building number sense. In these types of activities, students see that even when quantities are represented in different ways, they still equal the same amount. They can also begin to make the connection between numbers and quantities and see that each number represents the quantity of the objects counted when counting one-to-one.
This resource in my TpT store is great because it gives students an opportunity to use manipulatives, along with the pictures I provided. You can give students erasers, pom-poms, blocks, or whatever else you have on hand, which they can then use to match the quantity on the given card using one-to-one correspondence.
There are so many ways that you can incorporate counting into your math center time. It can be something as simple as a counting collection that students count orally. You can also use more complex activities where students have to make the connection between the numeral and the quantity shown. For example, students could count out given quantities using manipulatives and a 10 frame. They could also represent specific numbers using illustrations. Students could even do activities where a quantity is shown on one piece of the center activity and has to be matched to the number on another piece.
One of my favorite center activities for building number sense with my kindergarteners is using clip cards. On each card, a quantity is shown. After counting that quantity, students will then use a clothes pin to clip the corresponding number. Not only does it give them plenty of counting practice, but it is also easy to prepare and only requires that you have the printed cards and clothespins.
Overall, center time can be a great time for students to put in the time and practice necessary to build number sense.
Math journals can be another great way for kindergarteners to build number sense. In this particular math journal that I created, there are several activities that help reinforce number sense for students. I include pieces that show the number represented in multiple ways, a place for students to represent the quantity with a drawing, and places for them to write the number so they can make the important number-quantity connection.
One of the things I love most about math journals is that they are customizable, so you can include the pieces that are relevant to your students. You can even add other ideas you may have. Another perk is that your students can refer back to them at any time.
While number posters aren’t exactly a way of teaching number sense, they are a way of reinforcing it. Like math journals, they can give students something to refer to at any point they may need them. I like to use posters that show the numeral, along with multiple ways to show a quantity. For example, the poster could display the number, ten frames, and real world pictures showing the quantity like the number posters I have in my TpT store.
I have also seen posters that display quantities as tally marks, snap cubes, and even fingers. The most important thing is that they show numbers and quantities clearly so that students can have a constant visual representation. This reinforces the relationship between numbers and the quantities that they represent.
Like many other skills we teach in kindergarten, number sense is a skill that comes with repetition and time. By giving students multiple opportunities to practice numbers and counting throughout the year, we are helping them to build number sense. Having students practice these skills in a variety of ways also helps establish those number sense skills that they will need when using more complex mathematical thinking later on.