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Ten Great Ideas for Matching Sets to Numbers from 0-30! (Freebie Alert!)

This week, I would like to share TEN fun new ways to help your kids practice matching sets from zero all the way up to thirty!  I have been creating these ideas for quite a while, and now share them in one of my new presentations on teaching number sense.  These activities are especially helpful for kids that are having trouble with zero to ten, all the way through those tricky teens and twenties.

Bubbles in the Bathtub
I call this activity, “Bubbles in the Bathtub!”  I found these cute little tubs at the Dollar Store.  I used pom poms for the bubbles, and then made groups of ten by hot gluing ten mini poms onto craft sticks.  Then I had the kids put them into the tubs, counting by tens, and then counting on from there to make the number that was shown on the side of the tub.  I value this activity because the children that need to physically count up all of the tiny pom poms still can touch each one, but the ones that don’t need to can simply ignore that and know that there are ten on a stick.  The numbers for this project, as well as the next three projects, are a free download right here.

Laundry Tubs and Clothespins
I call this activity “Laundry Tubs and Clothespins!”  I found these little “laundry tubs” at the Dollar Store (again!), as well as the clothespins!  I taped some numbers onto the sides of the tubs and had the children clip the correct amount of clothespins onto the sides of the tubs.  To form the teens and twenties, I purchased some tiny clothespins at a craft store and hot glued them in sets of ten to some craft sticks.  (I didn’t want risk having the kids lose or swallow any of the little clothespins, so I just decided to glue them down ahead of time to make things simpler as I did with the “Bubbles in the Bathtub” activity.) Again, the children that need to touch and count each little clothespin still can, while the children that are already “past that” can just “know that there are ten” and count on from there.
One caveat:  watch out for buying dollar store clothespins!  Some of them don’t hold up very well, even under adult use!  Mine snapped in half quite easily if you pushed on them the wrong way, resulting in a few tattletales and disruptions- you know how it is!  Of course, when there are a hundred of them in a pack, it doesn’t make much difference, but it would have been less trouble in the classroom if they weren’t constantly breaking.

Cups and Straws
This is a fun activity that I call “Icee Cups and Straws!”  I got the cups at the Target Dollar Spot last fall.  The children just need to count the straws that are bundled up with rubber bands in sets of ten and place them into the cup to form the correct amount of tens.  Then they put in the correct amount of single straws to form the correct total quantity shown on the outside of the cup.

Be careful of using disposable cups, because when I ran out of the sturdy Icee cups, I started using plastic disposable cups.  The children accidentally squished some of them within just one day, ruining my work of printing out numbers and taping them down!  If you want this to last, get real cups and if necessary, trim the straws down shorter so that they will not fall out of your smaller cups.  In this case, consider trimming off the “bendy part” of the straw, because I found it to be a real distraction to my some of my little ones, who insisted on pulling each one apart as far as possible before proceeding to count anything.    If I could start over, I would try to find straws that don’t bend!

Little Twisty Cups and Beans
I found these little cups at the Target Dollar Spot, and of course my mind started spinning with ideas on how I could make use of them!  So I printed out some numbers on return address labels and put beans in the cups, and voilá!  Another little matching sets center was born!  The numbers, formatted to be printed on return address labels are in the file with the numbers that you can tape on the cups and tubs, etc.

Matching Sets Flowers with Velcro
This activity is a freebie for you today!  It was really a fun one to put together for me, because I got to draw the flowers on my computer, and I always love to get creative like that when I can find the time.  I quickly discovered, though, how tricky it is to count out how many flower petals there are when you can’t remember where you started, though, so I added a little heart on one petal so the children (and I!) would know where to begin and end!  I also decided to get even a little “fancier” and had a volunteer paint the craft sticks with green liquid water colors for me.  Now that I look back on it, I guess I should have let the kids do that!  Oh, well!  You’ll definitely want to laminate the petals and stamen for sturdiness, though, and then just staple it to the stick with a regular stapler.

When we first tried it out in the classroom, and the children put it together, I had the kids just lay the numbers on the center of the flowers without velcro, because I hadn’t thought of adding that in.  I have to say that it wasn’t very exciting for them to do it that way, because the numbers had to balance on the flower and would often just fall off!  The activity was MUCH improved when we added the velcro!  So I really recommend that you add in the velcro, even though the activity will work without it.

The Parking Lot
Okay, do boys love cars, or do boys love cars????  What a silly question!  And here’s a freebie for your boys.  I must confess that I saw the idea on a blog somewhere; I simply can’t find it anywhere on the web!  So if I took your idea, please let me know and I will certainly give you credit right away.  I did quite a bit of searching to figure out where I first saw this fun idea and couldn’t find it.
In any case, here’s what you do:  simply print out the pages, and either laminate them or put them into page protectors, and then give the children some cars and have them count out the correct amount of cars.  That’s it!
I stopped at ten because I knew that more than ten cars wouldn’t fit on one 8.5 x 11″ piece of copy paper.  If there had been a way to glue ten little cars on a stick, I would have done it!  I considered putting ten little cars in a bag and have them make the teen numbers out of them, but we already have three different ways to do that with manipulatives, so I decided to let that one go.  I had the same sort of issue with the flower activity above, although I considered adding ten leaves or a second stem to make the teens and twenties, but it just didn’t seem worth the TROUBLE!
Just as a quick side note, I asked for donations of little cars for this project, asking parents to each send in ONE or TWO cars from their child’s collection if possible.  My “cup runneth over,” and I received approximately 450 cars!  So be careful what you ask for!  This is the now the most POPULAR toy center in my classroom every day at playtime- and it’s terrible when somebody dumps out the whole thing!!!!  (They are not supposed to, of course!)  I wish I had just purchased the cars at the dollar store.

And that’s not even ALL of the cars!!!!  There’s another box in a different corner….

Monkeys and Coconuts
I found this neat idea at SDE’s Conference for Missouri Kindergarten Teachers last summer at the vendor’s booth from Best Teacher Supply!  They had a whole bunch of little learning centers like this one made up out of parts of bulletin board set and some stickers.  Then they had divided up everything you needed to make it into little sets and were selling them at great prices like \$5.99, etc.!  The teachers were eating them up- including me!  Unfortunately, I don’t see these sets on their website at the moment, but you could always call them and see if they would send them to you.  I would ask them to give you enough pieces to include number ZERO, though, since I didn’t realize that my set didn’t include that until I got home.
To make this center, all you have to do is get the pieces, add the stickers in the correct quantities, write the numbers on the monkey heads, and laminate them.  Then add some velcro so that the kids can make them stick on the coconuts.  That’s it!

Popcorn and Stickers
This little Popcorn and Stickers Matching Sets Center is also one that I found at that same vendor booth at the SDE Conference in Missouri!  I bought the kit from Best Teacher Supply, but it is just bits and pieces of a bulletin board set combined with some stickers, and some velcro.  Love the creativity there!

Pete the Cat Buttons Matching Sets Center
I posted this popular freebie in August last year, on this blog post!  So you’ll have to jump over there to grab it!  My kids LOVE this one! All you have to do is print it off in color, laminate it, add some velcro, and find some buttons to add to it.  Really, the most expensive thing is the velcro.  Maybe we should all take out stock in velcro?

If you found this post helpful, here are some other posts you might like:

Those Tricky Teens and Twenties
Teaching Kids to Count to 100
Math on My Mind (Check out the Shark Teeth Addition at the Bottom!)

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