Learning Number Sense for Preschoolers

Number sense for preschoolers is a fundamental math skill. Most preschoolers already have a natural curiosity about counting. They already know that putting toys together generates more toys.

However, learning numbers sense at a young age needs more than knowing labels. So, you want to find learning activities that motivate children to learn concepts of more than, less than, and equal to.

In that way, they can make connections between numbers, words, and grouping. 

Teaching Number Sense to Preschoolers

As you seek ways to introduce numbers, use simple tools. For instance, you might use flashcards and memory games to match up numbers and words.

However, for children that already know the numbers, use more engaging activities. In that case, make use of household items to count more, less, or equal amounts. 

Number Sense Learning Activity

Ignite that curiosity of counting by using household materials. From construction paper to egg cartons, developing a fun activity is quick and easy.


  • 12 or 24 empty egg carton (preferably styrofoam)
  • 4 to 5 pipe cleaners or chenille stems (various colors)
  • glue
  • scissors
  • white construction paper
  • marker
  • number game block (or number die)
  • optional (number cards)

General Instructions: 

  • Make sure the egg carton is clean and dry before you start this activity 
  • (Optional: gently clean the egg carton with soapy water and let dry)
  • Use a strip of white paper and measure about 6.5 cm along with the paper
  • Make an individual marking and draw six lines, creating six labels
  • Use the marker to label numbers one to six including name and word
  • Cut each piece of the label and insert them individually into separate slots in the egg carton
  • Set aside to use later
  • Begin with a pipe cleaner and shape a triangle (cut if needed to make adjustments)
  • Repeat with another pipe cleaner to create a circle, rectangle, or square
  • Use glue to adhere the shapes onto white construction paper
  • Allow the glue to set overnight if possible
  • Use the shape cut-outs from the Sorting Game and Shape Activity
number sense

Activity #1: Number Sense Using Shapes

  1. Use the shapes on the construction paper as categories
  2. Let’s call this the shape template
  3. Place one, two, three, or four different types of shapes according to the shape template
  4. Ask children about the number of shapes available in each shape category
  5. You can help them by using flashcards with the number one, two, three, and four
  6. Continue to count each item in each shape category

Activity #2: Sorting Numbers in Egg Cartons

  1. Use the labels on the egg carton to count the number of shapes in each shape category
  2. For example, one triangle would go in the number one slot of the egg carton
  3. Repeat for the other shapes
  4. Add as many as six to create a sequence from one to six for each shape

Activity #3: Creating Comparison with Shapes

  1. Since there are many numbers of shapes in each slot, ask children about the number of shapes. 
  2. For instance, you could ask, are there more shapes in two or three? Let’s count. 
  3. Here, you want children to count the number of shapes and compare how much they have in each slot. 
  4. Repeat with different numbers between one and six

Activity #4: Using Equal Amounts of Shapes

  1. You can also help children see that you have the same amount of shapes. 
  2. Place one color of each shape in, for example, slot one. 
  3. So, you should have one orange circle, one orange triangle, one orange square in the number one column. 
  4. Here emphasize that you have the same number of shapes. 
  5. Repeat for a different color of shapes or numbers

Activity #5: Add a Number Game Block for More Fun

  1. Use the number game block and roll it once
  2. For instance, if the number game block lands on number three, ask children to select three of the same type of shape. 
  3. So, children could pick three circles, three squares, or any other shape
  4. Then, tell children to place them in the corresponding shape category
  5. Next, you can count together or place them in the egg carton 

Other alternatives to creating shapes with the pipe cleaners include ovals and rhombus.

Use colorful or sparkly pipe cleaners and paste them onto white construction paper in the same way as stated in the instructions. Repeat any of the activities. 

Learning number sense for preschoolers creates a fun experience with household items. By only using what you have on hand, you help your preschoolers develop math skills.

Besides that, you also help them build math skills that will last for a lifetime. 

These activities in math are ideal for families and educators that follow the Common Knowledge curriculum and the Head Start program. The standards assessed in each activity are Goal: Quantify Groups of Objects, I-MR4.1a, I-MR4.2a, I-MR4.5a, I-MR4.7, I-MR4.8 (Level I). You can also use these activities to instruct in II-MR4.2b, II-MR4.5b, II-MR4.6b, II-MR4.10, II-MR4.11 (Level II). 

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