Number rocks are the perfect go-to math manipulatives. They’re colorful, unique, and let’s face it – kids love rocks! You’ll definitely want to incorporate them into your math activities for preschoolers.
If you’re a preschool teacher, or the parent of a young child, you know this to be true – kids love rocks. They love to pick them up when they’re outside on the playground. Or when they’re taking a walk outside with the family. Or even when you’re trying to get everyone from the car to the grocery store quickly.
Oh, the amount of rocks I have had in my pockets over the years (both from my son and my preschool or kindergarten kiddos)! Something tells me you can relate to this, yes?
On top of just being awesome, these number rocks are perfect for a variety of hands-on math activities such as one-to-one correspondence.
This set of number rocks was made years and years ago at this point. They have lasted through multiple sets of children’s hands, and I’m hoping they’ll continue to do so. Of course, they’re rather easy to make, too. So I’m not opposed to making more!
Here’s what we used to make our rockin’ numbers:
You can definitely make some adjustments based on what you already have on-hand. Just make sure to start with clean rocks, preferably with some flat parts. And I highly recommend using acrylic paint and a sealer. I’m pretty sure why the original number rocks lasted so long.
Related: The Mitten Story Rocks
Start off by painting ten of the river rocks with white acrylic paint. Your students can help with this part if you want them to be involved. Or you can do what I did and make the number rocks as a surprise for the kids.
Once the white paint has dried, add different quantities of dots to each rock. Make sure to have at least one rock for each quantity zero to nine. You can also make quantities greater than nine!
While your quantity rocks are drying, move on to the numeral rocks. I left my numeral rocks black, as a contrast to the white stones. You can, of course, do something a little different if you’d prefer!
Use different colors of acrylic paint to add numbers to each rock, again from zero to nine. Set everything to dry.
Once all of your number rocks are dry, use an acrylic sealer on them. This helps keep the paint from chipping too much as the kids handle the rocks.
How to Use Number Rocks for Hands-On Math Activities
There are numerous ways to use these number rocks in preschool. Below are just a few examples:
- Have children order the numeral rocks from zero to nine. They can do the same with the quantity rocks, too.
- The kiddos can match each numeral to the correct quantity rock. So the rock with the number 9 on it would get matched to the rock with nine dots on it.
- Let the children use the numeral rocks to make larger numbers. For example, kids can put 1 and 5 together to create 15 (or 51).
- The children can match up other objects to the numeral and quantity rocks, too. So they can match the number 7 rock to the rock with 7 dots, then add 7 unifix cubes beside the rocks.
- Pair them with rainbow shape rocks for even more math exploration.
- Make multiple sets of number rocks. Then use them for matching games!
Related: Slime Monster Counting Activity
As I said above, there are tons of ways to explore early math concepts with these rocks. Ask your students, and I bet they can come up with some ideas we haven’t even considered! Or place them out in your math center and observe how the children interact with the numbered rocks.
How would you use these number rocks with your children/students? I’d love to hear more ideas for hands-on math in the comments below!
A Full Week of Playful Rock Theme Ideas
Save time and get right to the playful learning with our printable lesson plan sets. Each set includes over 30 playful learning activities related to the theme, and we’ve provided different versions for home preschool families and classroom teachers so all activities are geared directly toward your needs.
If your students loved the number rocks, they will definitely have a blast with an entire theme around rocks!
This post was originally written for B-Inspired Mama and originally posted here February, 2015.