Begin with the Basics: Preschool Math Activities for the Beginning of the Year

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Pre-Math Concepts for the Beginning of the School Year

It’s the beginning of the school year. What are you going to plan for math activities for your preschool class? Since it is so early in the year, you probably are not familiar with the developmental levels of each of your students yet, so planning activities can be challenging. For the first few weeks, while you are acquainting yourself with your students and their strengths, it may be necessary to plan a few basic math activities to assess students development.

Basic patterning, counting and matching, are great preschool math activities for the beginning of the year. Introducing these pre-math concepts at the beginning of the year will give your students the foundation to participate in more complex math activities as the year progresses.

Finish the Pattern - Free Worksheet Download

In order to assess children’s understanding of math concepts, it is important to observe children in small groups. This activity works best as a teacher-directed small group activity. Create a worksheet, or use our free worksheet download (below), for preschoolers to finish. If you are creating your own, try it two ways. First, create an AB pattern of only colors. For example, yellow circle, blue circle, yellow circle, blue circle. Ask children what comes next. For a more challenging activity, change the colors and shape. For example, yellow circle, blue triangle, yellow circle, blue triangle. Allow children to master AB patterns before moving on to more complex patterning activities.

Download: Preschool Patterning Activity Worksheet

Continuing Early Math Activities

Bead Stringing: For another patterning activity, begin stringing chunky beads in a distinct pattern with children. Leave some room on the string and ask children to finish the pattern you’ve started.

Number Puzzles: Create self-correcting, two piece number puzzles using cardboard or posterboard. On one side of the puzzle, write a number. On the other side, draw the corresponding number of dots. You may also use star or circle stickers to create your puzzles. Be sure to cut each puzzle you create in a unique way to make the puzzles self-correcting.

Shape Lotto: Many preschoolers will be able to differentiate between several shapes such as circle, square, heart and star. To reinforce these skills, create a simple lotto game to play with your preschool class. Lotto is just like Bingo, but uses only pictures instead of letters and numbers. Allow children to use Bingo markers or chips to cover their spaces. This activity can be done collaboratively, allowing older preschoolers to assist younger children.

Calendar Math: Most preschool days begin with a large group circle time that involve calendar activities. Include math in these calendar activities by counting how many days you have been in school, how many days are left in the month, how many days until a classmate’s birthday, etc. Be sure to point to the days as you count them in order to reinforce one to one correspondence.

Graphing: As a sign in activity, ask children to perform a simple activity such as put a sticker in the correct column of a chart that asks “What color is your hair?”. Bring the chart with you to your early morning circle time, and create a bar graph with your class based on the data collected at sign in. Be sure to count stickers out loud together with your students to reinforce one to one correspondence.

Preschool math activities for the beginning of the year should be simple enough for children to grasp easily, but challenging enough to make them interesting. It may be necessary for you to plan several teacher-directed math activities, in order to assess children’s developmental levels, and therefore plan appropriate math lessons in the future.


Reference: Preschool Math; Robert Williams, Joy Lubaway and Deborah Cunningham; 2005