Math centers don’t always have to be a closed, self-checking activity. This playdough math invitation to play is very open ended and it keeps preschoolers busily learning many different math skills.
Sometimes the most valuable math center is a hunk of playdough, some rolling pins and lots of math related accessories. Not only did my preschoolers naturally use the playdough in a mathematical kind of way, this was also a great way for me to assess their skills in a natural, non-assessment ind of setting.
Materials for Playdough Math Invitation to Play
- playdough (You can find my favorite recipe here).
- counting accessories, such as: number cookie cutters, number tiles, buttons, straws, floral pebbles and dyed lollipop sticks
The Set Up
Playdough Math Invitation to Play Activity
My preschoolers quickly got to playing with the playdough. Many of them began by rolling out their dough to form a patty. They began to add the math accessories to the playdough, counting and naming numbers as they went along. Some preschoolers began at the number one, and put on of each accessory into their playdough, counting all the way to ten.
Other preschoolers used the materials to play pretend, still all the while counting, adding and subtracting. For example, one student used the number tiles to make a pathway to a castle, which was made out of straws and dyed lollipop sticks.
Another child discovered that the straws could be threaded onto the lollipop sticks, so she carefully counted how many straws could fit on each stick. The number differed as I intentionally did not cut the straws into equal lengths.
Birthday cakes were also made, as well as pancakes and cookies. The floral pebbles were used as chocolate chips, and as the children played I encouraged them to count the chocolate chips, or birthday candles, or stepping stones they added. There was a limited supply of the materials, which in sharing meant that some children also practiced addition and subtraction skills. One preschooler needed four candles for her birthday cake, so when another shared his candles, he recounted to see how many he had left, which lead into talk about who had more or less.
As the children played, my role was to ask questions and encourage their play. For a time I played along side them before taking notes that I would later use for assessments to present to their parents during parents-teacher conferences.
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.