The first day of school is a busy one no matter what grade you teach, but I think this is especially true in kindergarten! If you work in the primary classroom, being intentional about the lessons and activities you use on the first day is so important. What you plan on using for the first day will easily make or break the day! If you’re looking for fun and engaging first day of school math activities, I’ve gotcha covered! Come along and see a few of my favorites and how I use them.
Expectations for the First Day of School
If you’ve been in the classroom for a few years, you likely already know that the first day of school can be a rollercoaster of emotions. Children are excited (and nervous) to meet new friends and start learning in a brand-new classroom.
Teachers are often facing many of the same emotions when it comes to the first day of school as well. We’re busy trying to welcome our new kiddos and make sure everyone has what they need all while navigating a new school year ourselves. The first day of school is so much fun, but it can also be completely exhausting!
For these reasons, I always try to think about structuring our day and activities in a way that will make things simple to execute, fun for kiddos, and easy to change at a moment’s notice. After all, things tend to not go quite as planned during those first couple of weeks!
Choosing First Day of School Math Activities
With all of this in mind, I like to make sure that the activities I’m choosing for my new group of students are fun and easy for them to get started with. Since the first day of school is much more focused on getting to know each other and the classroom, I’m not too worried about choosing activities that target specific learning goals.
We will definitely focus on specific goals and targets throughout the year, but on the very first day, I aim to convey a friendly and fun environment to my new students. I want them to feel welcome and excited to learn! To help facilitate this, I choose our activities and materials carefully.
Young children, like my kindergarten students, LOVE math manipulatives since they’re so similar to familiar toys at home.
My students view math center time as a chance to “build”, which is a great way to ignite some interest in the topics we’re covering with these lessons. I like to keep this in mind when I choose my first day of school math activities and I find that I always lean into a few student favorites!
Back to School 2D Shapes Activities
First up, let’s talk 2D shapes! This is an important concept in kindergarten and a great place to start on the first day of school since kiddos have likely worked with shapes in preschool or at home prior. The activities in my Back to School Shapes Resource are a great way to review what students might already know and get lots of practice with shapes right off the bat!
These games are perfect for morning tubs, center activities, partner games, and independent learning. Many of them require only a few materials and are super quick to prep too. Some of my favorites from this resource are:
- Clip Cards – Students will play independently. They will look at the picture and clip the matching shape with a clothespin.
- Bump – Students play with a partner. They will spin a shape and cover it up on the mat and try not to get bumped off by their partner.
- Dominoes – Students can play independently or with a partner to match the shapes and build a train with the pieces.
- Roll & Cover – Students will play independently. They will roll a dice and cover the matching shape on the mat.
- Count the Shapes – Students will play independently. They will look at the collage of shapes and count and record the number of each shape.
- BINGO – Students can play in small groups. They will cover up the shapes called until one person has a straight line or the entire board covered.
In addition to the games mentioned, there are 8 more games that your students will love. As you can see, some of them are meant for small groups and partner games, while others are perfect for independent learning. They’re a great choice for your first day of school math activities since they are focused on hands-on learning through fun games.
Math Snap Cube Games
Another great option for your first day of school math activities is Snap Cube Centers. Snap cubes are fun for young students and always catch their interest.
Plus you can target a variety of skills with them too! On the first day of school, I love working on number recognition and subitizing with the math activities in this resource.
Both number recognition and subitizing are easy skills to explain to young learners, making them a great option for your first day of school math activities.
These skills are essential for success in higher-level math lessons, so why not start with these on the first day of school? Here’s a quick rundown of how these activities work:
- Number Recognition – Students will read the code on the side of the mat. Using the color code, they will determine the number represented by each color and place the matching snap cubes on the correct number on the mat.
- Subitizing Dot Patterns – Students will read the code on the side of the mat. Using the color code, they will determine the number represented by each color and place the matching snap cubes on the correct dot pattern on the mat.
These simple activities are perfect for small groups, centers, and independent learning. This resource also comes with some simple literacy games too, so you’ll be all set with some well-rounded snap cube games!
Back to School Graphing Activities
If you’d like to introduce basic graphing to your students during your first day of school math activities, you’ll love this next resource. My Back to School Graphing set focuses on using snap cubes to build familiar school shapes. There are 10 building mats included with fun shapes like a schoolhouse, glue bottle, backpack, apple, and more.
Students will use a dice to roll a colored snap cube. The student will then find a matching snap cube for the number they rolled and place it on the mat. The student will then color in one square on the graphing recording sheet above the matching color. Students will keep rolling, matching, and graphing until the mat is full. Once the mat is full, students can compare each column of the graph to see which color is the greatest and the least.
I love that this activity targets a few different skills like learning to roll and count with dice, identifying cubes by color, counting the cubes, graphing the cubes, and comparing. Since it’s a game that promotes hands-on learning with fun manipulatives, it meets all of my criteria for the first day of school.
This activity is perfect for center time, small groups, or morning tubs. I like to laminate the building mats and provide each group of kiddos with a fresh sheet of graph paper to record their cubes. Using this method allows for the mats to be used multiple times throughout the beginning weeks of school.
First Day of School Tens Frames
If you love snap cubes as much as I do, you might be looking for even more options to help target math skills with your students. My Back to School Ten Frames resource is a fun fine motor activity that will lay the foundation for working with groups of 0-10. These building mats also use a back-to-school theme with fun shapes like school buses and pencils.
To play, students will use dice to roll a colored snap cube. The student will then find a matching snap cube for the number they rolled and place it on the mat.
The student will then color in one square on the ten frame recording sheet beside the matching color. Students will keep rolling, matching, and coloring until the mat is full.
This is a wonderful introduction to tens frames on the first day of school. Kiddos will enjoy building their own shape and then coloring in each square as they go.
These activities are perfect for small groups when you can spend a little more time explaining the purpose of tens frames and why we use them. This activity is also great for center time too though, since it’s super quick and easy to explain. This versatile activity is one of our favorites for the first day, year after year.
Organizing Your First Day of School Math Activities
When it comes to getting all of your materials organized and ready for the first day of school, I’m a big fan of laminating pages that we will use over and over again. Most of my snap cube mats are laminated, and I make copies of the recording sheets. I place these items with whatever else is needed to complete the activity in a bin. Each bin might have things like pencils, markers, dry-erase markers, whiteboard erasers, snap cubes, dice, building mats, and recording sheets.
Getting these bins prepped and ready before our first day means that I can use them in whatever way seems best at the moment. For example, we might start with the plan of using the bins for center time but find ourselves with a lot of time to spare before lunch. At this point, I might pull out another bin and have the kiddos work independently on one of these activities.
Prepping more than I think I’ll need is always my strategy for this reason! I never want to find myself in a room full of brand-new students without enough activities to keep the day rolling. Whichever way you decide to structure your first day of school math activities don’t forget to choose activities that offer engaging opportunities for hands-on learning, are simple to prep, and FUN for new students!
More Back to School Activities
If you are looking for more activities that are perfect for back to school, then make sure to check these out:
- Back to School Shape Activities for Kindergarten
- 6 Fun Activities For Back-To-School Lapbooks
- Setting Up a Back to School Writing Center
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