Daily Number Sense!

Use these activities to quickly (and easily, I hope) develop number sense in your students. Choose a "starting point" by clicking on a link below. On each page, the "Next" and "Previous" links will take you through all the available activities in a "random" order (not the order listed here). I usually do some of these activities for about 10-15 minutes a day. I display the page on the whiteboard and students respond using their personal whiteboards. (More info about these pages below.)


 Reveal the Rectangle
 Shapes and Triangles


 Fraction Bar Estimation
 Subitizing Dots
 Visual Estimation


 Add Double-digits w/100s Chart
 Story Problems

Number Characteristics

 Chant the Primes
 Guess My Number


 Inverse Operations: + -
 Make 10s
 Multiples of 2
 Multiples of 5
 Multiples of 7
 Set Recognition: Addition
 Set Recognition: Multiplication

Why number sense?

Number sense is vital for students to work successfully in mathematics! In the school where I work, most of our children come to school without number sense. When I first started teaching, this had not been as much of a challenge since we were able to take time to "play" with numbers and explore number relationships to develop number sense. During the more recent past, the atmosphere of NCLB tied us to pacing guides that rushed us through ever-increasing amounts of number concepts in order to prepare the students for the high stakes testing which "determined" whether or not we were "doing a good job" teaching our students. The irony is that the speed with which we introduced concepts did not easily allow us to develop the bases for true mathematical understanding and problem solving! We were producing students with rivers of knowledge that were the proverbial "mile wide and one inch deep".

Students who do not have a deep understanding of numbers and their relationships with each other find higher math concepts (fractions, ratios, algebra, etc.) very difficult. The biggest crime is that they are ill-equipped for problem solving and critical thinking. Under NCLB, we were preparing them for passing tests where all they needed to do was follow a set of ordered steps. Even when they could do that fairly well, the were not prepared for solving problems. Life is full of "problems" that are just like other "problems" we have already encountered except that the relationship is not obvious. Number sense helps us to see how the elements in these "problems" are related. In other words, number sense helps prepare us for life.

Thankfully, CCSS appears to encourage us to really develop number sense and critical thinking, and hopefully our administrative leaders will allow us to spend the time needed to do so.

I will step off my soapbox now.
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More Resources

  • Number Sense (Wikipedia) - Concise number sense description.
  • Number Sense—Right Now! - A "call to arms" from the former president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
  • Making (Number) Sense - My own well-researched document full of hands-on activities to do with children to develop number sense. Includes rationale for each type of included activity. The activities are also available in Spanish!