How To Create Number Sense – Part 1

A question I hear a lot amongst teachers, especially in the primary grades, is “How do I create number sense with my students?”. I admit this has been a challenge for me…there are so many suggestions out there…but number sense is so important. As a teacher who has taught older elementary kids, I can tell you that the best math gift you can give your students is a firm foundation in number sense while they are in primary grades. 

So how do we do it? By giving our students consistent, daily practice in representing, building, and drawing numbers.  In this post, I will discuss one of three ways that I found successful in creating number sense in my students. Please check out these companion posts to learn about the other two – Number Sense, Pt 2.

Number Talks 

You might call this “Number of the Day“.  Number Talks help students see math as more than memorizing facts. During Number Talks, it’s important to have students interact with different activities involving the number. You don’t need a lot of time…a short 5 minutes can be found at the beginning of your math block, during morning meetings, as a transition from lunch/recess, or at the end of the day before dismissal. Keep in mind that the idea is to make your Number Talk time consistent and engaging for the students.

Here are some of the activities I use in my Number Talks…

Whole Group Math

  • Write the number word and numeral
  • Circle the number – provide an assortment of different numbers. Call on a student to find the number and circle it.
  • Draw a collection – easiest objects to draw are shapes.
  • Sequence with 1 more/1 less – you can differentiate this with 2 more/less, 5 more/less, or 10 more/less
  • Draw tally marks
  • Draw ten frames

All parts needed to make this anchor chart are available in my Number Posters and More 1-20 – Polka Dots. Grab a set HERE!

Student Follow Along

Provide students with a whiteboard and marker to follow along with what is being done on the big chart. Or create a template of your chart and copy one for each student. Insert into a page protector and presto…instant whiteboard. 

What I like to do is use my Number Sense 1-20 Practice pages during my Number Talks.

Just print and staple a packet for each student, then have them save the packet in their math folders for future use.  I particularly love this approach because the students are taking ownership of their learning by creating a reference resource they made themselves. Many times during the year I will direct my students back to their Numbers Journal (as I call it) to answer a numbers question.

Periodically, I refresh their number sense skills with these seasonal Number Sense pages. They are perfect for independent work time during your math block. Students love the holiday/month themes and can’t wait to work on them. There is a different pattern for each month. Choose the numbers you are working on in class and make a new Numbers Journal for them! 

You can find my seasonal packets here:

Fall Number Sense 1-20

Winter Number Sense 1-20

Spring Number Sense 1-20

Or grab them as a bundle HERE!

I hope this post has helped you. Please feel free to share in the comments any ideas you have found useful in your Number Talks. 

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