It’s a very visual and tactile way for kids to practice ordering the numbers from 1-10. They can then go on to learn about number sequences, and spotting the missing numbers in a number pattern.
Who said maths had to be done at a desk?
Time: 10 minutes
Age: Little kids to Big kids
Skill: Learning number sequences
You will need:
- Plastic balls (play balls or ping pong balls)
- Cupcake cases OR a muffin tin
- Black Sharpie pen
Make your number balls
Using a black Sharpie write numbers on your plastic balls.
Use 10 balls to write the numbers 1-10.
We chose to use one colour of balls for odd numbers and another colour of balls for the even numbers.
This way your child can instantly see the odd and even numbers once they are laid out in a sequence.
Game 1: Arrange the balls from 1-10
Set out 10 silicone bun cases or cupcake cases and ask your child to place the balls in them in order from 1-10.
Ask them to say each number as they place it down.
Once your child has ordered the numbers say them all out loud from 1-10.
Bat to 10
To further practice counting from 1-10 a nice activity is to put your hands together to make a ‘bat’ and bat an invisible ball (or a real play ball) to one another, counting each time you hit the ball.
So you bat an invisible ball to your child saying ‘1’, they bat it back and shout ‘2’, and so on, until you reach 10.
Game 2: Spot the missing number
Now ask your child to close their eyes while you take away one of the numbers. Your child then has to guess which number is missing from the sequence.
Repeat this a few times, taking away different numbers.
Game 2 – extended: Spot all the missing numbers
This time take away 2 or 3 or even 4 numbers from the sequence.
Ask your child to figure out which numbers are missing and where they go.
Game 3: Odds and evens
Show your child the numbers laid out from 1-10.
Explain to them that the yellow balls are ODD numbers and the blue balls are EVEN numbers.
Even numbers can be shared equally. Odd numbers can’t be shared equally.
You could get some items to show your child how this works. Lay out 4 buttons or biscuits (or another item) and ask them to share them out between you.
They will see you both get the same amount. Now ask them to share out 3 buttons. They will notice that you don’t get the same amount.
Now ask your child to take away all the yellow balls – the odd numbers. Point to each even number left and say the numbers out loud to reinforce that these are the even numbers.
Game 4: Guess the missing even number
As your child becomes more comfortable with the idea of odd and even numbers, and can count in twos, they can move onto this harder game.
Put all the even numbers in a row, from the smallest to the biggest.
Now take one away and ask your child to work out which is missing.
Do this a few times, taking away different numbers each time.
By doing this simple activity your child will be practising their 2 times table without even knowing it!
Game 5: Guess the missing odd number
Now ask your child to find all the odd numbers and place them in a row from the smallest to the largest.
Play the game again, taking away one odd number at a time from the row and asking your child to find out which is missing.
Game 6: Create a challenge with more difficult number sequences
For older children you can make more difficult number sequences.
First place the balls in order and ask your child to spot the pattern.
In this sequence you have to count on 3 to find the next number in the sequence.
Now take away one ball and ask your child to work out which number is missing.
Game 6 – extended: figure out the sequence and the missing number
Ask your child to work out what the pattern is to make this number sequence and if they can work out which number is missing.
This number pattern game takes no time at all to set up and you can have hours of colourful learning fun playing any one of these 6 game activities.
Adjust the games to what your child feels comfortable doing and then introduce new challenges.
You could even get them to set up their number sequences for YOU to figure out too!