Number Staircase Ideas for Your Kindergarten Math Center

Saturday, 27 July 2019


As you are thinking about how to run your math center this year, consider offering a few ongoing activities that will sustain the center for the entire year.

One activity I like to include is building number staircases.

Using number staircases to help children with number sense skills such as 1:1 counting, numeral recognition, number order, subtilizing, more and less, and comparing numbers.


Not only do children enjoy this hands-on experience, but it provides great practice with number sense skills such as 1:1 counting, numeral recognition, number order, subitizing, and configurations such as columns and rows.

Even more importantly, the visual of the staircase supports children in conceptualizing the pattern of our number system and understanding that each number has a value that is one more or one less than the numbers that come before and after.

This may seem like a simple concept, but I find many kiddos who struggle here, which then makes grasping addition and subtraction even more difficult.

Here are a few ideas and things to consider as you set up and organize your math center to ready it for staircase building.

The Numerals

You'll need to gather a variety of numeral sets for children to choose from when building staircases. These might be made of wood, foam, plastic, cardboard or could be index or flashcards.

Using number staircases to help children with number sense skills such as 1:1 counting, numeral recognition, number order, subtilizing, more and less, and comparing numbers.


Consider beginning with numerals 1-5 and then progressing to 1-10 and 1-20 as their skills grow.

The Math Counters

Children will enjoy choosing the counters to use for their staircases so make different sets available.  Mini erasers, acrylic gems, felt pieces, snap cubes and small blocks all work well.

Using number staircases to help children with number sense skills such as 1:1 counting, numeral recognition, number order, subtilizing, more and less, and comparing numbers.

It's important that the counters are uniform in size in order for children to see that one more, one less relationship. 

Using number staircases to help children with number sense skills such as 1:1 counting, numeral recognition, number order, subtilizing, more and less, and comparing numbers.

If you have seasonal counters, change them out with each month or season to renew children's interest in this ongoing activity.

Using number staircases to help children with number sense skills such as 1:1 counting, numeral recognition, number order, subtilizing, more and less, and comparing numbers.

The Math Mats

You might find that some children need a math mat to provide a physical boundary for their work or to support them in creating the staircase.

Using number staircases to help children with number sense skills such as 1:1 counting, numeral recognition, number order, subtilizing, more and less, and comparing numbers.

Carpet remnants, placemats, or doormats all work well for this.

Make it a Math Game

Make it a game by adding some dice and children can stack counters based on what they've rolled as they race to see who is the first to complete their staircase.

Using number staircases to help children with number sense skills such as 1:1 counting, numeral recognition, number order, subtilizing, more and less, and comparing numbers.


Using number staircases to help children with number sense skills such as 1:1 counting, numeral recognition, number order, subtilizing, more and less, and comparing numbers.

You can find these staircase games in the Roll it, Write it, Count it resource.

Storage and Organization

Sorting trays are great for counter storage.  Numeral sets can be placed in plastic bags or pencil cases and stored in a bin.

If you don't yet have a Math Center in your classroom and are looking for more set-up tips, this start-up guide will walk you through the process.

Using number staircases to help children with number sense skills such as 1:1 counting, numeral recognition, number order, subtilizing, more and less, and comparing numbers.

The math center is one of several choices my children have during Discovery Workshop. If you are curious about this time in our day and want to know more, check out this start-up guide.


Thanks for stopping by!

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