I hear from so many teachers that math is their least favorite subject to teach. Some of them struggled with math as a child, some find their math curriculums overwhelming, and some just have never felt as successful teaching math as they would like. Well, teaching math is my favorite, and I am obsessed with helping other teachers feel the same way. If you’re a teacher and need some fresh ideas for math activities 1st grade students will think are totally awesome, then you are in the right place!
This article is all about math activities 1st grade teachers should always be using!
Hands-On Math Activities
Using manipulatives is a sure way to help your math activities increase engagement and effectiveness. Concrete representations are the best place to start when you’re teaching new material. Here are some of my favorite tools to use if you’re looking to incorporate some hands-on math activities for 1st grade:
- There are so many fun kinds of counters you can use! Double-sided math counters, mini erasers, and small animal counters are all fun choices.
- You can use counters to practice number pairs or use them with ten frame or number bond templates.
- Counters can also be offered as manipulative to make give any worksheet or workbook a hands-on option for the students who need it.
- Pop-its provide a fun hands-on option for math activities. These are great for students who need extra kinesthetic feedback.
- You can use them to practice counting on (students pop a circle down for each number they count on).
- Get a 10×10 pop it to practice counting to 100, counting by tens, or to notice patterns within a hundreds chart.
- You can even make your own ten-frame pop it by trimming them to two rows of 5!
- There are even Pop-It game boards. You can create a math game activity by having students roll the dice and pop down the number they get and add on to try to make it to a certain total.
- You can get physical ten frames for your class or students – magnetic ones, plastic ones, or have them as a whiteboard template.
- Use your ten frames for number sense by practicing visual recognition of groups of 5.
- You can also use them for practicing number pairs adding on from 5 (5+1, 5+2, etc).
- And of course you can practice pairs that make 10!
- Use these cubes to practice counting on – start with any number and then move a cube over for every number as you count up.
- Use two different colors to practice finding different number pairs for a certain sum.
- You can also use cubes inside of ten frames or number bond templates to practice adding on or finding number pairs.
Math Activities With Art
I am a firm believer that the arts can help students learn every subject more richly and deeply. Even math! I use crafts, songs, and movement all the time to help students master new math concepts. The arts provide a huge number of ideas for math enrichment activities.
Turn new strategies into a craft by having students use art materials to represent numbers. Crafts are a great example of math activities 1st grade students will be engaged and excited about
- I love using pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, pom poms, or sequins to represent tens and ones.
- Crafts are especially perfect for units on measurement, time, money, or geometry. These units naturally lend themselves to cut and paste projects that help students apply and review math concepts.
- You can even turn simple practice into a craft by adding in some fun art mediums. Have students use chalk on black paper or glitter pens and it instantly uplifts what would other feel like repetitive work!
- Color by numbers are one of my go-to math activities for 1st grade, because they incorporate some coloring and art into math. I suggest finding color by numbers that target the specific skill or strategy you’re working on (pairs that make 10, counting on by 2, adding to 10, etc.)
I love turning math concepts into songs. These little ditties not only help students remember things better, but they make everything much more fun. Here are some examples to get you going. They don’t have to be anything fancy!
- A song for Tens and Ones:
“All teen numbers are ten and some ones,
Ten and some ones,
Ten and some ones,
All teen numbers are ten and some ones!
Ten and one are what? 11!
Ten and two are what? 12! Etc.”
- A song for learning trapezoids:
“It looks like a diamond yes that’s true,
But that’s not its name I promise.
4 sides all the same length, what’s it called?
It’s a rhom, it’s a rhom, it’s a rhombus!
Rhom, rhom, rhombus, we call it a rhombus!
Rhom, rhom, rhombus, we call it a rhombus!”
- A song for inequalities:
“The alligator looks for something to eat,
He’s looking for a nice big tasty treat!
One number is bigger, the other is smaller,
Which one is the alligator going to swallow?”
Math Movement Activities
Incorporating dance and movement into any math activities for kids can be so helpful. Our brains work better when we move, so let’s get our students up and out of their seats! These types of exercises are math activities kindergarten, first grade, and even second grade students will enjoy.
- 4 Corners: post math problems in each corner. Then pass out cards that have answer on them to each student. Students then have to find the corner with the problem that matches their card’s answer. Collect the cards, shuffle them, and repeat!
- Let’s Split Them Up: A game to practice number pairs. First, choose a number for your sum. For example, you could decide to practice ways to make 8. Then choose 8 students to stand in the middle. Select one student to split them into two groups by gently moving them to different sides. Then have the student share with the class the number pair they made (for example, “5 + 3 = 8”). Repeat with different students, having each of them split the students in the middle using a different number pair.
- Dance in the Shapes: First, tape lots of outlines of the different shapes you are studying on the ground. Then have students volunteer. Choose a few students to go dance in a specific shape. Play music as the students find the correct shape to stand and dance in. When the music pauses, they have to back to their seats, and it’s time to choose a new group of students.
Math Games Activities
Games are one of the go-to math activities in kindergarten and all the way up to high school. There are so many choices for how to use games as math enrichment activities. Here are some of my top suggestions:
Independent Math Games
These are great because you can have every student work at their own personal level. Two of my favorite options are the mazes from Miss Giraffe on TPT and the independent math game packs from Sweet Firstie Fun on TPT.
Math Card Games
There are so many wonderful card games that can be used as math activities for 1st grade. Some include:
- Go Fish 10: Instead of trying to get a matching pair, students try to get pairs that add up to 10. This game could be played for any sum, just remove the higher numbered cards.
- Adding War: Each student flips two cards and adds them together. The student with the higher sum gets to take the pile for that turn. Whoever has all the cards at the end wins.
- Slap 10: Students each flip a card. If the two cards add up to 10, they should try to slap the pile. Whoever slaps the pile first gest to take it! If a student slaps but the cards don’t equal 10, the other student gets to keep the pile! Whoever has all the cards at the end wins.
Group Math Games
These can be fun math activities to get the whole class moving and playing together.
- Bingo: Fill a bingo board with math problems. Draw cards that have the answers. Students need to find and cover a square with a problem that matches the answer you drew. Whoever gets 5 in a row gets a bingo!
- Pop: A game for counting practice. First, decide what counting you want to practice (by ones, by twos, counting backwards, counting by fives, by tens, etc.) Then choose one number to be the “pop” number. For example, if we were counting backwards from 20, we might choose 14 to be the “pop” number. Go around in a circle with each students saying the next number in the counting pattern. When it’s a student’s turn to say “14”, they say “pop!” instead, and they stand up. They are now out of the counting circle. Continue with the game (when you get to 0 you would start back at 20), continuing to have students “pop” on the number 14. Whoever is the last student in the circle wins!
Math Activities Online
While I believe that hands-on, off-screen learning should be the first choice for every classroom, I can’t deny that math activities online can be highly appealing and motivating for some students. I started using Boom Cards with my remedial tutoring, and I couldn’t believe what a helpful motivator it became to help with mastering math facts! I personally found Boom Cards to be the most engaging online math activities online option. Most games I found online were pretty basic and just about repetition and memorization.
I got hooked on using Boom Cards, and I ended up creating my own line of Boom Cards! These decks teach, reinforce, and help students master their math facts up to 10. You can check all of my decks out right here, and you can even try out my “Ways to Make 10” deck for free!
Boom Cards can be used as a special treat for students, or as part of a remedial math program for students who are behind.
Well friends, I hope you now have lots of ides for fun math activities for 1st grade!
Which one of these are you most excited to try out with your students? Xoxo Laura
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