Nine Ocean-Themed Math Activities for Preschool

Preschool Math

Math can be a subject that gets boring very quickly due to the amount of repetition and practice needed to master a new concept.


Making math fun can be easily achieved by incorporating interesting themes into your lessons. This simple idea can change the monotonous to entertaining and successful.

These ocean-themed preschool math activities will make a wave in any classroom! These activities will motivate your students and make their future math ventures so bright they'll need shades. So, hold on as we go for a dip into an ocean of math mania!

Counting and Number Activities

When you think about math in a preschool setting, counting is probably the first concept that comes to mind. Preschool students

Ocean Waves

spend a lot of time working on their numbers and learning to count. Below are several ocean themed activities that can be used to practice counting in preschool.

  • Provide the students with a sand bucket of shells. Ask the students first to guess how many shells they think may be in the bucket. (This is a great time to explain the concept of estimation.) Then have the students count the number of shells in their bucket using one-to-one correspondence. You may either give each student their own small bucket of shells, or you may choose to use a large bucket with more shells and count them as a class.
  • If you have a sand and water table, fill the table with water. Next, float some plastic sailboats in the water. Have the students count how many boats they see in the water. When you are finished, you may have the students use a plastic cup to empty the table. The class can count together how many cups of water there are in the table. This may be a large number, so they may need help counting them.
  • Explain to the students that often it is hot at the beach, and people may like to cool down with a nice ice cream cone. Have a large piece of poster board with several ice cream cones on it. Label each cone with a number between one and twenty. Above each cone, place a piece of velcro for the scoop of ice cream. Next, give each student several scoops of ice cream cut out of construction paper. Draw the desired number of dots on each scoop. The students must then count the number of dots on each scoop and match it to the cone with the matching number.
  • Find a small blow-up swimming pool. Once the pool is ready, fill it with construction paper fish. The fish should each be labeled with a number and have a paper clip on the end of it. Now give the students a "fishing pole" or a dowel rod with a string with a magnet on the end. Ask the students to go fishing for a number. When the student catches a fish, they must look at the number and state this number. This is a fun way to check for number recognition.

Shape Activity

Shapes are a simple math concept that are often introduced and focused on during preschool. One great way to practice shapes with an ocean theme is to draw a beach picture that includes the shapes. I suggest a circle sun, a starfish on the sand, a little girl with a heart on her swimsuit, a rectangle towel with a rectangle picnic basket, a circle umbrella, a triangle ice cream cone in someone's hand, oval lenses for sunglasses, and more. Do not worry if you are not an artist; the important part is that the shapes are recognizable. Then I would ask the students to find and color the shapes in the picture. You could use a different color for each shape. (For example, color all the circles orange and all the triangles blue.) You may need to tell the students how many of each shape they are looking for to avoid unnecessary frustration.

Sorting and Patterning Activities

Sorting and patterning are concepts that are an important foundation because they will be built upon later as the students begin harder concepts in elementary school and beyond. There are several activities you can do to help practice these concepts also during your ocean theme.

  • Provide the students with a large group of plastic ocean animals. You will ask them to sort these animals into groups by different features or purposes. You may want to sort by size, color, type of animal, whether or not they bite, whether or not they can survive on land, the number of legs or fins they have, or more. There are an endless amount of ways to sort these animals. Remember that the more ways you sort, the better your students will succeed at this concept.
  • Provide your students with pictures of many types of clothing from all seasons. Have the students divide the clothes into what you would wear to the beach and what you would not. This is not only a math activity, but it also encompasses an important science lesson on weather and appropriate clothing.
  • There are many things you can do to make patterns. You can provide any type of ocean themed items to make patterns. However, it may also be fun to cover a cookie sheet with a thin layer of sand. Begin by drawing an AB pattern in the sand with your finger. Have the students come up one at a time and draw in the next shape.

Graphing Activity

Graphing may seem too difficult for preschool students, but it can be very appropriate when handled correctly. Begin with a large sheet of chart or butcher paper. Draw a simple bar graph grid with numbers up the left side and the options across the bottom. One possible class graph would be "My Favorite Thing to Do at the Beach." Provide the students with three or four options (possibly swim, eat ice cream, build a sand castle, take a nap). Provide a picture icon for each option. Each student will pick the option they like best and write their name on their picture. One at a time, you should have the students come to the board and place their picture in the correct spot. Once everyone has put up their picture, discuss what had the most and least votes.

Other possible graph ideas may include:

  • Favorite ocean animal
  • Favorite thing to do in the water
  • Color of your swimsuit

With all these exciting ocean theme math activities for your preschool classroom, you may begin to feel like you are just playing around and not teaching. This is a great sign! Children learn best when they are interested and excited! These activities will do just that, and your students will surf into a world of math success!