Make a beautiful leaf number line and use it with these ideas for autumn math activities.
Leaf number line activities for autumn math lessons
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A number line is an essential piece of maths kit and helps children visualise and interpret number patterns and relationships. They’re very easy to make and you can use them for lots of different number line games.
To make one, start by deciding how many numbers you want to cover on your line. For toddlers you might keep things simple with the numbers one, two and three. For preschoolers you might have a line from one to ten, and focus on the patterns within this range. With older children you can even go all the way from one to 100.
:: wax crayons or oil pastels in autumn colours
:: marker pen
:: string and pegs
How to make a leaf number line
Take a nature walk and collect an assortment of fallen leaves – lots of different shapes, colours, and sizes.
Talk with the children about the leaves, why they fall, how the trees change appearance. What colour leaves have you found? What different shapes and sizes? Do you know the names of the trees they have fallen from?
For your number line, make rubbings of some of the leaves.
Place the leaf flat on the table with a piece of paper on top. Using a wax crayon (in autumnal red, green, brown, orange or yellow) carefully rub over the hidden leaf and watch the print emerge – as if by magic! Use the flat length of the wax crayon rather than the end you would use when writing.
Make rubbings of however many leaves you want on your number line.
You can use a mix of different shapes and sizes. Using two colours on some leaves looks good.
Cut out the leaves and stick them on to a piece of paper or card in a contrasting colour. Cut around each leaf on this paper/card, leaving a small border to frame each leaf.
Giving the leaves this strong card backing means you don’t need to laminate them – less plastic!
Work with your children to arrange the leaves in a line, starting with the smallest leaf and progressing to the biggest.
Then write the numbers 1 to 10 (or however many you have), one on each leaf, working from the smallest to the largest. This helps the children see the numbers as increasing.
Peg up your number line. We used a string and tiny pegs.
Place your number line somewhere prominent that the children will see frequently and refer to them often – for example to count out how many plates you need at lunch time.
How to play number line games
There are many variations you can play with a number line, to suit children of different ages.
Very young children might simply point to each leaf in turn and count out the numbers. If your child loves counting toys, or plates at mealtimes, you can find the matching number on the line to help them learn the names and form of each digit.
You can ask your child to point to ‘one more than’ or ‘one less than’ a particular number.
Have a treasure hunt and see if you can find one car to place on the number one, two dolls to place on the number two, and so on.
You could work out how many cups you need for all the people at snack time, and see if you can find the matching number on your line.
You could see if each child can find the number that matches their age.
You can use the number line to help you work out sums : counting up or down the line to answer addition or subtraction questions. The number line gives children a great visual reference to help them understand the meaning behind abstract maths questions. With older children, you can extend the number line to 100 and use it as an aid for children who are beginning to add and subtract two digit numbers.
You can look out for patterns. Perhaps you can place a twig or acorn on all the odd numbers, or a toy on all the numbers that end in zero. This is a great way to support visual learning.
You can use the number line as a board game. Lay your leaf numbers out on the floor and have each player start a twig, acorn, or conker on number one. Take turns to roll a die. Whatever number you land on has to be added to the number leaf you are on. So, start on one, roll a six, and you get to jump to seven. Keep taking turns to roll, add, and move, until every player makes it to 100. Or start at 100 and go backwards to practise subtraction. Even with slightly older children, this kind of ‘rapid fire’ mental maths helps them build confidence and speed.
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