Counting Cup Math Mats

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

This is going to sound totally weird, but one of the earliest memories I have of a favorite activity when I was little, is sitting at a big table with a jar full of buttons.  I would sort them, count them, make them into patterns . . . I literally spent HOURS playing with a jar of buttons. Perhaps that’s why I love counting cups for my students.  They’re simple, engaging and there are so many skills that can be practiced while your students think they are . . . dare I say it . . . playing.

I know that for many teachers the logistics of hands-on math at such a young age can be a nightmare and rightfully so.  With the make up of our classrooms, the sheer number of students and the demands placed on them, there is that fear that by offering activities that allow students some form of freedom to explore, there will be chaos and confusion.   However, I promise you with a little bit of planning and a lot of modeling,  you will find that students are more engaged and more apt to stay on task.  Math will become real with items they can touch and manipulate, and soon because your students love math, you will too.

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

Counting cups will offer your students that sense of play and give them hands-on practice with skills they need . . . It’s also super easy to differentiate them to pinpoint specific skills and . . . best of all . . . they are inexpensive to use.

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

If you follow my blog at all, you’ve seen me use these inexpensive little cups in all kinds of activities over the years, but they are also the main attraction in my morning work stations.  Because morning work stations are self-contained activities where my students grab a drawer and go, I can just place a bunch of cups in a drawer with the corresponding recording sheet and away they go. (If you’d like to learn more about morning work stations, just click HERE.)

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

But this is only one part of the day and only one place where counting cups show up in my classroom. Let me tell you a little bit more and maybe you can see yourself using them in your own class.

WHAT’S UP WITH THE CUPS

They’re cute and all that, but what’s the purpose?  The purpose is hands-on sorting, counting, adding, comparing and manipulating.  So much of what we expect kids to accomplish with pencil and paper can be done with simple little cups and a handful of items.

Grab a cup and count . . .

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

compare . . .

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

add . . .

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

reason . . .

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

Whatever skill you happen to need them to practice, you can accomplish with these little cups.

WHEN TO USE THEM

You’ve already seen how I use them for morning work and math stations,

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

but these cups are also great for interventions, activities for volunteers working with students in your classroom and early finishers.  I like to give my students the option to grab a cup and math mat and work on skills that they are trying to master whenever we have a free moment.   We have rest in my class, but I always give my students the option to do work on the skills they need to practice if they prefer.

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

Math cups are a great way to do that, and I’m always ok with that. The more practice I can give them, the more confident they become . . .

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

 

THE CUPS

The first thing you’re going to wonder is . . . well, what kind of cups do I need?  I’m going to tell you straight up, it doesn’t matter.  Get cups or containers that work for you  . . . things you can afford  . . . things that make sense for your students and that they can manage.

I personally love these Dollar Tree round cups because they are dirt cheap and if I use my colored stickers, I can instantly differentiate them by color.  It makes things so simple.  If you don’t have a Dollar Tree or if your Dollar Tree is out of these sweet little containers, you can order them from Dollar Tree by the case (36) and share them with your kindergarten team. They are available on Amazon, but they’re a little bit pricier.

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

But for when my students are counting up to 100 items, I use these little, colored boxes.  (I secured these from Michael’s.)

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

If items are larger, I found these clear boxes (they also come in a bunch of colors) from Walmart.

counting cups for kindergarten math

Ultimately, whatever you find and that works for what you need them to do, will be fine.

ORGANIZING AND DIFFERENTIATING SKILLS

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

Where ever you keep your cups, they need to be within reach of your students.  Place them on a low shelf that they can access without your help.  In close proximity, you’re going to want to keep corresponding math mats.  Now personally, I do not put math mats into their color-coordinated folders until I have introduced to them how to use them.  They need to have practice using the materials correctly.  Usually, that comes when I pull students for small groups during math stations, but I can also introduce a simple mat like ‘number line’ during our whole group calendar math time as well.  We practice, practice, practice . . .  Practice how to select a cup, practice how to use the cups, practice how to open and close and clean up the cups . . . practice, practice, practice. Front-loading the ‘how-to’ will save you many, many headaches in the end.

counting cups for kindergarten math

Currently, I have organized my cups and mats like this so that I know exactly what color cup I need to practice which specific skill.  These labels fit the cups perfectly.  There are also similarly printable circular labels from Avery (22817) that you can use and print pictures of animals, shapes or whatever it is that you would like to use to differentiate between your cups.  I’ve used them for my Ball Words Mix and Fix cups and they work perfectly. 

Cups with Blue Dots – 10 items of the same kind or less

  • Counting: on a number line to 10
  • Counting: on a ten frame
  • Counting: on a ten frame and indicating which number comes before and after (one less/one more)
  • Addition-using a ten frame to tell how many more to make ten

Cups with Green Dots – Up to 20 of the same item

  • Counting: on a number line to 20
  • Counting: on 2 ten frames
  • Counting: on 2 ten frames and indicating which number comes before and after (one less/one more)
  • Counting using tens and ones

Cups with Orange Dots – Two Mixed Type Items Up to 10 Items Total

  • Counting: on a number line to 10
  • Counting: on ten frames
  • Counting: on ten frames and indicating which number comes before and after (one less/one more)
  • Addition: Using number bonds
  • Addition:  Create a story problem
  • Comparing: greater than less than
  • Comparing: great than less than using 2 ten frames

Cups with Pink Dots – Ten of one type and more of another (Teen numbers)

  • Counting: on a number line to 20
  • Counting: using 2 ten frames
  • Counting: using 2 ten frames and indicating which number comes before and after (one less/one more)
  • Counting: tens and ones
  • Addition:  Using 2 ten frames
  • Addition: Using number bonds
  • Addition: Create a story problem
  • Comparing: greater than less than
  • Comparing: greater than less than using 2 ten frames

Colored, Hinged Cups – Number of items up to 100

  • Counting: on a vertical 100s chart
  • Counting: on a horizontal 100s chart
  • Counting: Tens and Ones

Other Math Mat options:

  • Sort: Sorting up to three different types of items
  • Sort and Count: Sorting and counting up to three types of items
  • Count and Record:  Full sheet of count and record (when you want to use them in a math station)
  • Add and record:  Full sheet to add and record (when you want to use them in a math station)
  • Addition:  What’s Your Story Problem
  • Subtraction:  What’s Your Story Problem

One of the questions I know you are going to ask is ‘How do students know which colored cup they are supposed to use?’  Usually, I do not need to give them any instruction in regards to this. They know to pick the colored cup that corresponds with their math station name card. (You’ll see an older example of my math station colored cards below as a frame of reference.)

(Students’ colors never stay the same because they are based on skill rather than tiers.  This is why their math station name cards are laminated.  I can quickly and easily change their color. )

The color of the cup corresponds with activities and skills they will find in a poly envelope with the same colored dot sticker in a magazine box next to the boxes.

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

They simply grab a cup and a poly envelope with the same colored dot sticker.

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

  

There will also be times, however, that I may want them to work on a specific skill and I’ll direct them to use a different colored cup.

counting cups for kindergarten math

Also, I have a class set of cups that allow them to count up to 100 items.  So those cups are always an option.

WHAT’S IN YOUR CUPS

counting cups for kindergarten cups

Yes, mini erasers are absolutely perfect and so so so cute, but ultimately, anything you use will work fine.  I like to see what it is that engages my students.  You could even ask them to bring things in to count.  With a couple of different sized boxes, you should be able to accommodate almost any small thing from buttons . . . to keys  . . . to even nuts!

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

Get creative and have some fun with them.  It doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg to get started.

AND WHAT ABOUT THOSE MATH MATS I PROMISED . . .

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

Yes, I have those for you.  You can get the Google doc for free and it’s easy . . .    BUT BEFORE YOU DO .  . . right now before you do anything else, will you do something for me.  Please, if you like these free activities and ideas,  follow me (@differkinder) on INSTAGRAM.  Just click HERE or on the picture below.  

instagram for differentiated kindergarten

Ok now that you’ve done that–thanks so much.  And here is your free set of math mats to use with your own counting cups.  Just click the picture below and it will send you to the Google document.  Download and save it to your computer.

 Using counting cups in preschool, kindergarten or even first grade is an engaging, fun way to practice a variety of math skills.  This blog post offers tips for organizing and using counting cups, suggestions for items to use as counters and a free set of printable math mats for use in your classroom or as a tool for homeschoolers. These hands-on activities are great for math centers, stations, or rotations.  They are also a good resource for teaching small group guided math.

Enjoy

Marsha Moffit McGuire

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