When teaching math skills to preschool children, it is important to present ideas in a variety of ways to help students really understand a concept. Number lines are one way to teach preschool math skills, like counting and comparing numbers. These number line activities will help your preschoolers develop a strong foundation for mathematical concepts.
Being the Number Line
Introduce your preschoolers to number lines by letting them “be” the number line. To prepare for the activity print and laminate these number line cards or make your own. Stretch a long piece of string or yarn into a straight line at the front of the classroom.
Gather the class together and tell them that you are going to be making a number line. If they have never seen one you may want to show them an example. Tell them that they can use number lines to help with counting, comparing numbers, adding and other math skills. Randomly pass out the cards to ten students. Then call out the numbers one at a time and have the child who has that card stand on the line until all ten students are on the line in order.
Talk about the number line you made. What do the children notice about it? “The numbers are in order. It starts with the smallest number.” Have each student hold up his card as the class practices counting to ten. Then pass the cards out to different children and have them try to arrange themselves in the right order. As the children learn about number lines this would be an easy warm up activity at the beginning of your math time.
Ten Black Dots
Children can make their own number lines using the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews. Read and discuss the book with your preschoolers. Then give each child a large piece of manila paper or legal sized printer paper and sheet of black (or another color) dot stickers. Hang a large sheet of chart paper up so that you can model for them. Show them how to draw a line across the bottom of the paper. Then have them draw a small line crossing the longer one and write the number 1 under it. Above the number line place one dot sticker. Then draw another line, write the number 2 under it and add two dot stickers above the line. Make sure the children are placing the dot stickers in a line going up, so that they can see the numbers getting bigger. Repeat until you have the numbers all the way to ten on the number line.
Preschoolers can also use number lines to compare numbers. Give each pair of students a number line, a handful of red, blue and green crayons and a red, blue and green snap cube. Have each pair sort the crayons by color, count each group and use the matching colored snap cube to mark how many of each crayon there are on the number line. Ask questions like “Which color has the most? The least? Are there more reds than blues? Than greens?” Then let the children trade crayons with another group and repeat the activity. This activity can be repeated on another day using teddy bear counters, colored goldfish crackers, Skittles or any other counter you want to use. You can also put the items in your math center for an easy center activity.
Use these number line activities along with other counting lessons and your students will become experts at counting and comparing numbers.