Number Sense Routines {freebies included}

I am SO giddy and excited to share this post with you?  Why you say…I don’t know!  Haha…I can hardly type as fast as my brain is thinking so I would imagine you’ll see a typo or so ๐Ÿ™‚
First off, before I even start to dive into number sense routines I have to share my new “go to” song.  Yes, it’s currently on r-e-p-e-a-t!

So, back to number sense!  Over the summer I started a number sense book study.  Life got in the way and I never really wrapped it up or let you know how I implemented all of the routines into my classroom- hence THIS post! ๐Ÿ™‚

Here is the book I addressed over the Summer!  It is a great read with easy  to follow and understand routines – – perfect for our little ones’ number sense!

So let’s get to the routines!  These are routines we do in our classroom each and everyday.  We don’t do all of them in one day of course ๐Ÿ™‚   Up first- – Count the Circle!

Count the circle/ Count around the circle is one of my favorite number sense routines. WAIT they are all my favorites!  For this routine all of my kiddos sit around the carpet in a circle -ya thought I would say square huh?!  Once they have taken their spots I will give them our counting strategy we are working on.  Before we start to count I will review a few expectations:

-Everyone is counting, when it is not your turn you are still counting in your head

-Everyone is aware of when it’s their turn so our counting sequence does not get interrupted

If one of our friends gets stumped we give them 5 seconds before we shout out the number {count to 5 on your fingers}

How to start count around the circle?

-Choose a counting sequence {1’s, 2’s, 5’s, 10’s}
-To make it a challenge give an alternate starting spot {don’t always start with 1}

-Challenge part 2: have students estimate what number they believe the group will be on when they get to a certain person in the sequence.  For this say something similar to, “We are going to count by 1’s.  If Sara starts with number 1, What number do you think Sam will say?”

As the year has progressed and we moved onto harder counting sequences I have equipped each student with a 100’s chart.  The students are responsible for following along the count on their hundreds chart.  When using the chart the students feel confidence in their answering.  When using the 100’s chart there is an added expectation.  The hundreds chart MUST stay quietly on your lap.  Trust me …you will want to remember that expectation!

Grab a freebie 100’s chart below! ๐Ÿ™‚

Up next…ten frame FLASH!

Ten frame flash AKA subitizing is one of those routines like count the circle that evolves as the year goes on.  It’s helpful because the students know the routine and adding a challenge is practically seamless!  In case you are new to subitizing here is a little introduction as discussed in the Number Sense Routines book.

This is an example of how as adults we are able to visualize what is before us.  A difficult concept for a student without a solid foundation in number sense.
“Subitizing is the ability to instantly recognize how many there are in a given set without having to count the set. Subitizing is used for building spatial relationships and increasing number sense.”  -Shumway

So, how do I use ten frame flash in my classroom?  VERY similar to this video from The Teaching Channel.
How do you start ten frame flash?

 I originally, last year started with the magnetic board like in the video.  I then upgraded to two new sets of interactive ten frames.  They are listed below.  However, my “go to” ten frame flashes are my printed ones!  They are so much easier!  At the beginning of year I do prefer the hands-on look.  Now i just flip through my printed ten frames and the routine takes about 3-5 minutes top.

Magnetic Ten Frame

Ten Frame Foam Boards

My printed ten frame

So back to starting ten frame flashes.  After the initial introduction to ten frame flash {like that in the video} I went on to just a quick version.  I quickly show a ten frame, and the students know to wait for me to turn it back over before they answer.  I do a group share out.  However, you can do a raised hand, thumbs up, etc for those that know the answer.  I will then quickly call on a student and ask how they saw the answer.  They are really great about expressing how they saw it.  “I saw 4 on one side and 2 on the other side.”  Or, “I saw 5 on the top and 2 on the bottom.”  There will be some cards that don’t represent anything “special” so I flash, get an answer, and move on to the next card.

Now that we are working on teen numbers and place value I have added a second ten frame.  This has really helped for their understanding that a teen number is ONE ten and ___ones.

When using ten frame flash for place value I will ask how did you see it and they respond with “I saw 1 ten and 7 seven that makes 17.”  Yes this “lingo” takes some teaching…but we all know a little teaching can go a LONG way.  It took about one day of me really emphasizing the language and now they do it without thought.

Below is a picture of two students playing Ten Frame Flash!

I also found a great ten frame flash online game for my students to play! Click HERE to view the online freebie games!

If you are in need of a simple set of ten frames I offer the packet below!
This packet also comes with a whiteboard version.  You can easily project the whiteboard version on your Smartboard and display the ten frame cards cards. The packet sells for $1.50.
Click above to view the packet!

Up next? Mingle & Count!

Mingle & count comes from the  Teaching Channel.  I will post the video below and the teacher explains the game in detail very well!  My students did really well.  Like any other new activity it will takes lots of practice and teacher set expectations on what students can and cannot do.  Mingle provides an excellent opportunity for students to not only work on math skills but also problem solving skills.  I find myself stating “be a problem solver” continually through out the day…well here is an opportunity for those students to practice!
With mingle again you NEED expectations set prior to starting.  Here is a rundown of ours:

-Everyone finds their group quickly
-We must be kind to our friends
-We need to find a new group each round {this is for those 2 girls that can not go without one another}

-Once you make your group, you need to hold hands or show that you are a group so others know

We are not yet to the point.  However, once we start addition we will be looking our groups in a part-part-whole outlook.  This group is made up of 2 boys and 3 girls.  2+3=5.

Up next?  More, Less, and the Same

So, this routine does not come from the Number Sense Routines book  or the Teaching Channel.  This one is a little of, “Hey this is what my kiddos need!”  This is another quick and easy routine.  We play this one at the carpet as the students are gathered around in the circle.  These cards are a freebie {found below}.  I really just base it upon what the kids are needing at that moment.  You don’t have to use the “more”, “less”, “same” cards always either.  Once the students know what I am looking for they can quickly point to it and we move on to a new set.  These routines are most effective I believe because they are all QUICK!

Click below to grab the freebie! ๐Ÿ™‚

The three remaining routines I will tell you about ALL use the cards out of this number sense packet!  Just wanted to put that out.  Several of you have already grabbed this packet so these are just a few more ways on how to put this versatile packet to good use!

Love me some number line up! Number line has been our daily routine for awhile now.  The kids love it and each and every day it is different then the day before so they don’t get bored.  Yes they are just lining up numbers so how can that be different…11 always goes before 12 right!?  Yes it does!  However, each day I am challenge the kids in a new way…they love nothing more than a little challenge!  Below is a little scenario that might happen…

{Working with numbers 10-20}

-I hand out a 15 to Johnny.  “Johnny will you tell the class the number you got.”

Johnny: “15”

“Johnny if this is where ten will start {point} then how can you find out where the 15 will go?

Johnny:  “I can count on from where ten would be 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15!”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

-I then hand out a 17 card to Susie.  “Susie can you please tell the class the number you got.”

Susie: “17”
“Susie can you explain to the class how you know where to put the 17 card.”
Susie:  “I know that this is 15 because Johnny already placed it down.  So I can count on from 15..15, 16, 17!”
“Susie, why did you leave this space between the 15 and 17?”
Susie: “That is for 16!”

No jokes this is serious stuff in our classroom…the kids take pride in their “explanations” and sometimes they get down right technical!  We started the year out with only putting down the numbers we had covered all the way through 20.  However, you and I know numbers to 20 is a little much for their attention span so that is why I knocked it down to just teen numbers.  Don’t have the “official” number cards?  No biggie, write the numerals on index cards!

Dot card match up is like number line up on steroids {if I can say?}.  It is just what is claims to be…a dot card match up!  Students must match the dot card to the numeral and number word {optional}.  I run this routine very similar to that of number line up…just add in the dot cards!  I follow the same kind of questioning… “How did you know that?”  “Can you explain your answer?”

Again, you can grab these cards in my number sense packet or write them on index cards for an easy fix!

You know what they say about the last….why yes it’s the bomb biggity! {if I can say that too?} Our  number line {or it’s fancy name- Organic Number Line} is something I heard about this time last year.  I knew I wanted to get my hands all over it, but it didn’t happen.  So, I was very excited to get it up and running this year! Again, just a few cards, twine, clothes pins, hooks, & some hot glue and your set! I take no credit for hanging the line my assistant husband took care of that for me! PS. The cards are on the string with masking we can change them out when need be.  The hot glue was for hanging up the hooks!

  The idea behind an organic number line is that students help build it and because of that they have a connection and understanding to the number line.  Well, that would be correct!  The kiddos “helped” me to choose what would go on the number line.  I still can’t believe we both had the same ideas ๐Ÿ˜‰  Below is snap shot of our number line at the beginning of the year!  See how scarce it is…we had only learned the number one! AWWW…those were the days!  We added cards to our number line each time we learned the number.  I didn’t get a snap shot of our teen numbers right now but they have the numeral, ten frame, and tally marks -instead of fingers! 

So it’s hanging there nice and pretty–now what?  This routine is what starts off our math lessons EVERY day!  As the kiddos are cleaning up their snacks they are heading down to the carpet to gather in our circle.  I am always looking for my first “teacher.”  I begin by counting each number with their help!  We always clap on 10 and 20.  That is a Math in Focus thing, but it’s good for them!  We just recently worked on counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s so we did a little of that as well.  We then go in to their “teaching!”  I hand over the pointer hand and the first student teaches us something new.  Below are few statements I hear…

“15 is more then 2”
“4 comes before 2”

“19 is less than 20”
“16 comes after 3”
“This is 16 on a ten frame”
“This is 10 using tally marks…5, 10”

And some will do some reverse psychology and ask US questions…
“What number comes before 14?”
“What number comes after 19?”
All in all make these routines work for YOU and your STUDENTS!  I feel as though I left out something so as always feel free to email me with any questions! ๐Ÿ™‚

If you are in need of the cards to get this rock and rollin’ and you don’t trust you index writing skills you can find them here!

Also, one last thing before I skedaddle… A freebie number sense tracker! I will provide the PPT version {editable} and the PDF version!  Click below to download the freebie.




Now you have the power to…


  1. Amazing blog post! I immediately added your number sense pack to my wish list, Tara! You have done an incredible job putting together all these resourcesโ€ฆI wanna be a guru for number sense:) Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  2. Okay 3 things! First…I'm watching American Idol and HAPPY is playing in the background and then I come here and see it on your blog!!! Connected!! Second…we watched the ten frame flash at a common core training and I LOVED it!! I play flash frames with my kids every day! Third…YOU ARE AMAZING! That is all ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I love the number sense line idea. I am wondering how to attached the numbers, dots, etc. to the string. I see clothes pins for the top of each column, but what about the numbers that fall below? I would love to be able to remove them temporarily for other math/number activities.

    – Lauren

    1. Lauren, I tried several different ways, but I went went just tape! I used masking tape and clear mailing tape. I printed off a second set to work with at the carpet! Also, it looks like they are just hanging there, but most have been tape the actual wall to keep them from spinning! Lots of tries before I got them to stop spinning ๐Ÿ™‚ Feel free to email me at ta******@ho*****.com anytime!


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