Teacher Guided Activities

Build Math and Executive Function Skills at the Same Time

Why Executive Function Matters in Preschool

Executive function (EF) skills begin to develop in early childhood, and we continue to use them throughout life. EF skills  are cognitive skills used to deliberately and effortfully evaluate and control our own thoughts and behavior. They include the ability to follow instructions to complete a task, stay focused despite distractions, and successfully switch between tasks.

Research shows that EF skills support problem-solving, which in turn supports the development of math skills. Both EF and math skills are linked to a wide range of important academic outcomes.

 

Using These Activities in Your Classroom

  • The 10 activities in this collection use only common classroom materials or downloadable materials that can be printed from this website.
  • The activities cover two key areas of preschool math: Number, Counting, Cardinality, and Operations and Geometry and Spatial Thinking
  • Each activity outlines more specific math objectives to guide teaching.
  • Each activity is available in one, two or three levels of difficulty.
  • Although we encourage teachers to be familiar with all versions of an activity (to meet different students where they are), refer to the Version Description and Objectives to select the versions most suitable for your students.

Over a period of weeks or longer,

  • Introduce the activity in Whole Group Time,
  • Engage pairs or small groups of students in the Small Group Activities, over several days or weeks. The small group activities are designed to focus on learning and practicing math and EF skills.
  • Provide a Center version of the activity after children are familiar with the materials and activity.
  • If the activity is too easy for some students, or too difficult for other students, consider adjusting the math, executive function, or both to increase or decrease the challenge. Detailed suggestions for scaffolding are provided for each activity.
  • All activities include printable mediator cards that support children’s executive function skills during the activities. For example, Step Icons help students keep track of the steps of an activity. Think-Pair-Share cards remind students when to think silently or share with their partners. Role Play cards help students keep track of what role they play in the activity.

Using These Activities in Your Classroom

  • The 10 activities in this collection use only common classroom materials or downloadable materials that can be printed from this website.
  • The activities cover two key areas of preschool math: Number, Counting, Cardinality, and Operations and Geometry and Spatial Thinking
  • Each activity outlines more specific math objectives to guide teaching.
  • Each activity is available in one, two or three levels of difficulty.
  • Although we encourage teachers to be familiar with all versions of an activity (to meet different students where they are), refer to the Version Description and Objectives to select the versions most suitable for your students.

Over a period of weeks or longer,

  • Introduce the activity in Whole Group Time,
  • Engage pairs or small groups of students in the Small Group Activities, over several days or weeks. The small group activities are designed to focus on learning and practicing math and EF skills.
  • Provide a Center version of the activity after children are familiar with the materials and activity.
  • If the activity is too easy for some students, or too difficult for other students, consider adjusting the math, executive function, or both to increase or decrease the challenge. Detailed suggestions for scaffolding are provided for each activity.
  • All activities include printable mediator cards that support children’s executive function skills during the activities. For example, Step Icons help students keep track of the steps of an activity. Think-Pair-Share cards remind students when to think silently or share with their partners. Role Play cards help students keep track of what role they play in the activity.

Activity Directory

The Guided Math + EF Activities were created by the University of Denver team led by Douglas H. Clements and Crystal Day-Hess, in collaboration with Michele M. Mazzocco from the University of Minnesota; this team was composed of Holland Banse, Christina Mulcahy, and Julie Sarama, at the University of Denver and Megan Onesti from the University of Minnesota. In addition, the University of Minnesota team, comprised of Jasmine Ernst, Sarah Pan, and Jenny Chan contributed to developing Math + EF support articles. The authors are grateful to their collaborating teachers in the Denver and greater Minneapolis-St Paul metropolitan regions who provided valuable constructive feedback on the activities.