Number Line Games for First Grade

A number line is a wonderful math tool for first graders. As children learn to count higher numbers and develop a better sense of how numbers relate to one another, number lines give kids a visual reference to work from. They can be a big help with concepts such as:

  • working with greater than/less than
  •         Greater Than Line
  • finding which number comes just before, or just after, another number
  • Before and After Line
  • finding odd and even numbers
  • Odd and Even Line
  • addition
  • Addition Line
  • subtraction
  • Subtraction Line
  • helping kids develop a mental line of numbers in their head for doing simple calculations

Try these fun number line games to give first graders practice with math skills.

Jump It!

Hopscotch Number Line

If it can be done on paper, it can be done with sidewalk chalk. Draw a large number line outdoors (space the lines yourself; kids can write in the numbers). Explain the "rules of the game"--and let the game be whatever math skill kids are currently practicing. Have kids jump to different numbers as you read their task. Here are just a few possibilities:

  • "Jump on all the odd numbers."
  • "Jump on the number that is one less than 9."
  • "Jump on a number smaller than 12." (Lots of kids can play this one, and see how many can squeeze onto the available numbers.)
  • "Jump on a number between 5 and 8."
  • "Jump on a 7. Add 3. What did you get?"
  • "Jump on a 15. Subtract 4. What did you get?"
  • You can mix up instructions for kids at a higher level: "Jump on an even number that is greater than 6."

Birthday Line Up

Chalk on Paveme19 Kids will love this fun birthday activity. Use sidewalk chalk to make a large number line from 1 to 31. Ask kids to think of their birthday number, then go stand on it. A child who was born on May 7 and one who was born on December 7 would both stand on the 7. Give kids a chance to look around and see who else has a birthday on their same date, and share what month they were born in with their neighbor. While kids are still standing there, give instructions like,

  • "Everyone who has a birthday on an odd number stand up. If your birthday is on an even number, sit down."
  • "If your birthday date is greater than 20, stand up. If it is less than 20, sit down. If your birthday is on the 20th, jump up and down."
  • "If your birthday is between 3 and 7, put your hands in the air."
  • "Corina, what is your birthday plus 2? Edin, what is your birthday minus three?"

Clothespin Line

Drape a thin rope across the room so it is about at kids' eye level. Make number cards from 1-10, 1-20, or any area you want to practice (more advanced learners can try 50-70, for example). Have enough clothespins available to hang up the cards. Before playing with the kids, hang up a few baseline cards, to give kids a reference point. If the number line is 1-10, you can get away with just hanging up a 1 and a 10 card.

Clothespin Number Line The skills you can practice with your clothespin line are limited only by your imagination. For basic number sense skills, give kids a number card and have them hang up their card where they think it should go. As more people put up more numbers, they may need to adjust where they put their card. This is a great way to mentally visualize where numbers are in relationship to each other.

Clip up a number somewhere in the middle of your rope and ask anyone who has a number less than your number to clip theirs up.

Have kids clip up all their numbers at once, but put them in order. Or, have all the even numbers put theirs up in order. Then take them all down and repeat the activity with the odd numbers.

VARIATION: You can also make a cool and festive number line using Christmas lights instead of a rope strung across the room. For ideas on how to use this with kids, take a look at this great video.

Card Challenge

Prepare for this game by writing on a few index cards the tasks you want your kids to practice. Cards might say,

  • one less than your number
  • your number plus 2
  • one more than your number
  • is your number greater or less than 5?

...and so on. You will also need a deck of playing cards with face cards removed (tell kids that A=1), and some sort of number line.

To play, a child picks a playing card and reads the number. Another child picks one of the index cards and reads the math challenge. The player can use a number line to get the answer; if she gets it right, she gets one point.

One final word before you go: Number lines are a great resource, and kids will learn a lot from them. Use them often, especially in the early stages of learning a new concept, to help kids see how numbers work together.

However, because they are such a useful tool, kids can start to use them as crutches. If you see kids becoming dependent on them instead of trying to work problems out by other means, gently encourage them to try to figure problems out without the number line, and give plenty of praise if they are able to solve them on their own.

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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
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