# Math Moments

## Brief moments of math learning can add up! Here are some examples you can build on.

• Math Moments are quick and easy ideas for building math into a variety of routine classroom activities:
1. Clean-Up: Putting away toys and materials
2. On the Go: Moving to a different place
3. Mealtime: Preparing food, eating lunch and snacks, and taking water breaks
4. Playtime: Playing inside and outside the classroom
5. Anytime: Use flexibly when the opportunity arises
• Math Moments promote children’s understanding of .
• Most Math Moments can be done without any materials.
• Some Math Moments require sets of cards with shapes, dots, or numerals
• Using a number line can make some of the ideas easier for children to understand.
• Each Math Moment includes examples of prompts that teachers can say and a modification to add variety or adjust the challenge.
• These ideas are meant to get you started. Adapt the activities based on students’ needs and your instructional goals.
• Use the same Math Moment again all year, building on the adaptation ideas.
• Mistakes are expected and show where children are in their learning. Use mistakes to identify skills your students need more opportunities to practice. Visual aids and more teacher scaffolding may be necessary when children are first introduced to an activity.

## Numbers at Mealtime

Mealtime

Count, compare, and discuss quantities at mealtime.

Example: “Amaya, how many apple slices do you have?” Or: “Are there more kids sitting at this table or that table? Let’s count!” Or: “If we need one juice box for each person at this table, how many juice boxes do we need?”

To make it harder, ask children addition and subtraction questions. “Miguel has three carrots. If he eats one, how many will be left?”

## Spatial Words Outside

Playtime

When children are playing outside, use shape, size, and location words like round, short, and far to talk about the things around them.

Example: “Which tree is the tallest? Which tree is the farthest away?” Or “What shape is the sandbox? Do you see any other shapes?”

To add variety, give children instructions using spatial words. “Jordan, when I say ‘Go,’ climb up the stairs, walk over the bridge, and then go down the tallest slide.”

## Spatial Words at Block Time

Playtime

During block time, use spatial words to describe the shape, size, and location of the blocks and structures children build.

Example: “The rectangular block is a lot wider than the cylinders at the bottom of your tower and the triangular block on top.” Or: “What shape do you need to add on this side to match the other side?”

To add variety, have children pair up and describe their structures to each other using spatial words.

## What Shape Am I Thinking Of?

Anytime

Think of a shape and give children clues about its features until they guess the shape.

Example: “The shape I’m thinking of has four sides. [Children guess.] The shape has two long sides and two short sides.”

To make it easier, have children look at illustrations of different shapes as you provide clues.

## Get Attention Using Spatial Words

Anytime

Use prompts about shape, size, and location to get children’s attention.

Example: “If you can hear me, put your hands behind your back! Now, put one hand on our head and one hand on your tummy.” Or “If you can hear me, stand as tall as you can and reach up high.”

To add variety, pick a child to give the instructions.

## Move Using Spatial Words

Anytime

Give children prompts to move their bodies using shape, size, or location words, such as curve, big, and low.

To add variety, turn the prompts into a rule-following game like Simon Says.

## Find Shapes in Food

Mealtime

Prompt children to find shapes in their food.

Example: “I see circles on my plate. What shapes do you see on your plate?”

To make it harder, talk about how shapes found in foods are similar and different from true shapes. “How is a watermelon slice like a triangle? How is it different?”

## “I Spy” Using Location Words

Anytime

Pick something in the room and prompt children to guess what it is by giving clues about its location, using words like above, behind, under, and near. Keep giving location clues until the children guess or find the object.

Example: “I’m thinking of something that is in between the cubbies and the art center. [Children guess.] It is behind the table on the bookshelf. [Children guess.] It is below the shelves with books and above the shelf with blocks.”

To add variety, choose a child to give the clues.

## Shape Clean-Up

Clean-Up

When putting away toys, prompt children to do so based on each toy’s shape.

Example: “First, put all the rectangular prisms away, then the cylinders.” Or: “Sam, put away all the hexagons. Taylor, put away all the triangles.”

To make it harder, give instructions based on specific features of shapes. “Carmen, first put away all the shapes that have four sides.”

## Color Line-Up

On the Go

Put pieces of colored paper or fabric on the ground. Ask children to line up based on the color of their clothing or shoes. Once they are lined up, count how many children are in each line.

Example: “We’re going to get into lines based on the color of our shoes. I’ve put colored paper on the floor. Line up in front of the piece of paper that matches your shoes most closely. How many friends have black shoes? Gray shoes?”

To add variety, make a chart or graph based on the students’ data.

## Count Steps to Measure Distance

On the Go

Have children count how many steps it takes to get from one place to another. Explain how every step needs to be the same size for accurate measurement. Experiment with using big and small steps.

Example: “Count how many small steps it takes to go from me to the tree. Try to keep each step the same size. [Children walk and count.] Now, let’s count how many big steps it takes to walk back to me. [Children walk and count.] Did you take more big or small steps? Why is that?”

To make it easier, count as a group as individual children walk to the destination.

## Measurement Clean-Up

Clean-Up

Ask children to put away toys based on size.

Examples: “Put the biggest toys away first.” Or: “Find a toy to put away that is smaller than your hand.”

To make it harder, give instructions based on height, width, or length. Example: “Let’s put the toy animals away from tallest to shortest.”

## Get Attention Using Number Actions

Anytime

Use prompts about numbers to get children’s attention.

Example: “If you can hear me, use your fingers to show me a number that’s bigger than two.”

To make it harder, use larger numbers or request two actions with different numbers. Example: "If you can hear me, clap three times and stomp your foot two times."

## Compare Shapes to Find Your Group

On the Go
Materials needed

Give each child a card with a shape on it. Use the cards to put children into groups or to give instructions about where to go.

Example: “Everyone with a rectangle, go to the art table. Rectangles have four sides. Everyone with a triangle, go to the math center. How many sides do triangles have?”

To make it easier, give all the children in each group the same card. For instance, the children in one group receive cards with an equilateral triangle and the children in another group receive cards with a square. Vary the types and representations of shapes as children’s shape knowledge grows.

## Move to the Speed

Anytime

Have children move their bodies or body parts at different speeds. Set the tempo for their movements using music or by tapping a beat.

Example: “This song is sloooow. Move your arms up and down slowly to match the song. Now, let’s try a fast song.”

To make it harder, count fast movements versus slow movements. For instance, count aloud together as one child claps quickly for 15 seconds. Then, count as the child claps slowly for 15 seconds. Compare how many times the child clapped in the two situations.

## Find the Number Using Operations

Anytime

Think of a number, then give children addition or subtraction clues to guess the number.

Examples: “I’m thinking of the number you get when you have two [hold up two fingers] and you add one more [hold up one finger].” Or: “I’m thinking of the number you get when you have three cookies [hold up three fingers] and you eat one of them.”

To make it harder, use larger numbers, no number gestures, or more abstract language, such as: “I’m thinking of the number you get when you start with six and take away four.”

## Counting Clean-Up

Clean-Up

When putting toys away, ask children to pick up a certain number of toys and show you how many they picked up before putting them away.

Example: “Everyone find three toys to put away. I see that Jade has three books, 1-2-3. Riley, you found two blocks, 1-2. Find one more.”

To add variety, ask children to perform a number action, like clapping two times, after they put the toys away.

## Line Up in Patterns

On the Go
Materials needed

Hand students cards with shapes or numbers so they make a pattern as they line up.

Example: “We are going to make an ABAB pattern by lining up in a square, triangle, square, triangle pattern. Look at your cards and line up to make this pattern.”

To make it harder, use complex patterns, such as AABAAB, ABBABB, or ABCABC. Example: “Let’s make an ABCABC pattern with numbers. We’ll go 2-4-6, 2-4-6.”

## Line Up Two-by-Two

On the Go
Materials needed

Give half of the students in the class cards with a numeral and the other half of students cards with a set of dots. Have children line up next to the person whose card has the same number as theirs.

Example: “If your card has dots, count how many there are. Then, find the friend who has the number matching how many dots you have.”

To make it easier, give each child a card with a set of dots instead of numerals. Ask students to line up with the person whose card has the same number of dots.

## Copy the Pattern

Anytime

Have children copy a pattern made from sounds and movements.

Example: “If you can hear me, copy this pattern: Clap-stomp, clap-stomp.”

To make it harder, use complex patterns, such as AABAAB, ABBABB, or ABCABC. Example: “If you can hear me, copy my pattern: Clap-clap-stomp, clap-clap-stomp.”

## Find the Number by Counting

Anytime

Think of a number, then give children counting clues to guess the number.

Examples: “I’m thinking of a number that comes right after four.” Or: “I’m thinking of a number that comes right before seven.”

To make it easier, use smaller numbers or a number line as a visual aid.

## Line Up by Number

On the Go
Materials needed

Give each child a card with a numeral or set of dots on it. Have children get in line when their number is called. After everyone is lined up, have each child say their number.

Example: “Count to see how many dots are on your card. Remember the number of dots. When I call your number of dots, get in line.”

To make it harder, have children work together to line up from smallest to biggest or biggest to smallest.

The Math Moments were developed by the DREME University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin, Madison teams led by Susan Levine and Amy Claessens, respectively, and composed of Ariadne Nelson, Michelle Hurst, Leslie Villaverde, Fujiuju Chang, Abrea Greene, and Toyosi Arogbokun. DREME Network affiliates Kelley Durkin, Luke Rainey, Rachel Kasul, Julie Kim, Uhjin Sim, Lucy Rubenstein, Sarah Costello, and Linh Duong contributed to the piloting of the Math Moments. The authors are grateful to the collaborating teachers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Massachusetts who provided valuable feedback on the activities.

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