After seeing an idea for math mats in a magazine, I decided to make some and laminate them for use at our school. Preschoolers can practice counting and shape building with these mats using a variety of different materials. Providing different materials at different times can reinforce and scaffold learning. Here are a few examples of the ways we have used math mats!
Using Play Dough
Provide children with play dough to build outlines of the shapes and numbers. They can work to mold the dough to fill in the shape, or make “lines” with the dough (like making “worms”) and then outline the shape.
Ask them to roll pieces of playdough into balls and make the same number of play dough balls as each number.
Using Small Materials
You can also vary the activity using other materials (such as pom poms, seeds or other small manipulatives). In the pictures, the children used sunflower and pumpkin seeds to outlines the shapes.
With the pom poms we did an estimating activity – guessing how many pom poms it would take to fill the circle. Then we filled it, and counted to see how close we were.
Using Pipe Cleaners
This was a more challenging activity, as children tried to bend and mold the pipe cleaners into each shape. We provided pipe cleaners of various sizes.
You can make up your own mat on colored paper. Laminate the mats with clear contact paper or laminating sheets for durability. They can be placed in the math center with small counting objects – or in the art center, with collage materials and play dough … or BOTH!