58 Mathematics Ideas for Kids with Extra Needs

58 Mathematics Ideas for Kids with Extra Needs

When children start school, not all children are working at a kindergarten level. Some will need time to catch up and others may progress very slowly due to disabilities. These maths ideas, linked to the Australian Curriculum, will help with hands on activities for each area of maths.

Children without extra needs can also benefit from these maths ideas, just differentiate them if they are working above this level, e.g. more difficult patterns; count by 2s; hang only even numbered washing on the line; write own numbers; trace number words; sort larger amounts; share with bigger groups, and so on.

These activities are also great for preschoolers at home or early childhood centres. 

Number and Algebra - Number and place value:

Establish understanding of the language and processes of counting by naming numbers in sequences, initially to and from 20, moving from any starting point (ACMNA001)

1.Read books with number themes.

2.Count objects in books.

3.Count outside – climb steps and count, count petals, collect stones and count.

4.Write numbers on cut outs like our “Washing on the Line” resource. String up a washing line and peg the numbers in order.  


5.Use nursery rhymes like “One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive”. We have a number of Sing-a-long resources.


6.Use songs to learn counting backwards. Ten Green Bottles is great, but make sure you have 10 green bottles. Paint soft drink bottles green and knock the bottles off the wall as they fall.

7.Use cards with numbers on them and sort. Start with only 3 cards and increase over time.

number sort

8.Collect leaves and glue to a sheet of paper.  Count the leaves and help write the numbers underneath. Or use our free resource Count and Make Flowers or our free Counting Mats.

9.Trace inside big numbers. Just print out, draw or cut out some numbers and draw inside them.

trace numbers

10.Step out 5 steps and step back 5 steps, counting backwards.

11.Cut out 5-10 strips of paper. Make a paper chain, counting as you join the chain up.

12. Draw the child’s family – count how many? How many adults? How many kids? How many pets? How many altogether?

Connect number names, numerals and quantities, including zero, initially up to 10 and then beyond (ACMNA002)

13. Add to this with cards containing number names, so you will have 1, one and one object, 2, two and 2 objects, etc. 

14. Use a large sheet of cardboard. Draw up a table 2x5 (10 boxes). Number the boxes 1-10. Find 1 object to place in box 1, find 2 objects to place in box 2, etc. You can have a bag full of craft (pompoms, popsicle sticks, etc.) and glue the objects on also. 

number sort

15. Use our products where we match numerals, names and numbers.

 Subitise small collections of objects (ACMNA003)

16.Throw buttons on the table (use only 1 to 6 buttons). See how quickly the student can tell you how many. Subitising should be instant, so build up to this over time.

17. Use dominoes and match the ends. Take turns and work towards a game. 

18. Throw a dice and quickly tell how many. After a while, cover the dice with a piece of paper seconds after it lands and then ask how many…they need to work towards instant recognition.

19. We have a free subitising PowerPoint you may find helpful.


Compare, order and make correspondences between collections, initially to 20, and explain reasoning (ACMNA289)

20. Make paper people and write the numbers 1st to 5th on the people. Put the people in order – line them up to go into class or waiting at canteen for lunch.

ordinal numbers

21. Give a card to each child with a number. Have children line up in order.

22. Use stones or toys. Make 2 piles and talk about which pile has more/less or are they the same or different? Count and check.


23. Divide collections of things by characteristics, e.g., separate by colour, size (big/little), shape (round/square/diamond), etc.

 Represent practical situations to model addition and sharing (ACMNA004)

24. Make up cute lollies together with cardboard and colour to decorate. Use these to talk about sharing. Share between 2, 3, or 4. Does everyone have the same amount? Is that fair? Is there any left over?

25. Make up squares with Velcro dots on the back using brown paper. Attach to a rectangle to form a block of chocolate. Make it small like 3 x 3. Share the chocolate pieces.

sharing math

26. Draw a car park on the cement – keep it small. Maybe 10 parking spaces. Park some toy cars in the car park. Leave some spaces empty. Talk about how many more cars you will need to fill the car park. Bring in 12 cars. Fill all the spots. How many cars missed out? Keep changing scenarios. If this is too hard, start with 5 parking spaces. We have car mats for purchase.

counting with cars

27. Use play dough and a play knife. Create a pizza and share between 2, 3, 4.

Number and Algebra - Patterns and algebra

Sort and classify familiar objects and explain the basis for these classifications. Copy, continue and create patterns with objects and drawings (ACMNA005)

28.Thread beads in patterns starting with 2 colours only (AB,AB pattern). Work up to more complex patterns. Add another colour (ABC,ABC, etc.). The easiest patterns are those with two variables, e.g. red, green, red, green. This is an AB,AB pattern. More complex patterns include ABC, ABC; AABB,AABB; AAB,AAB; ABB, ABB; and ABCD,ABCD.

29. Use different shape blocks and make patterns – square, triangle, square, triangle, and so on.

30. Use colour pencils – red, yellow, green, red, yellow, green and so on.

31. Go outside and see what patterns you can spot, e.g. lines on the road, a fence, flowers, seeds. Look at books with animals – black and white of a zebra, etc.

32. Use music or clapping to create patterns - loud, soft, loud, soft; quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, etc.

33. Use movement to make patterns – skip, hop, skip, hop; slow, fast, slow, fast.

34. Draw a pattern and have the student add the next object. Miss an object and have student draw the missing object. So triangle,?,triangle, square. Which object should you draw that is missing?


 Measurement and Geometry – Using units of measurement

Use direct and indirect comparisons to decide which is longer, heavier or holds more, and explain reasoning in everyday language (ACMMG006)

35. Use everyday objects and sort from shortest to longest (sticks, leaves, pencils, etc.). Talk about which one is longer, shorter, taller, etc.

36. Go outside and talk about the trees and buildings. Which tree is the tallest? Is it taller than the classroom?

37. Do 3 or 4 big jumps and mark them with cones – which jump was the longest?

38. Cut up strips of paper and glue from longest to shortest. Explain that you need to line them up at the bottom to determine the answer.

39. Use sand and a variety of cups. Talk about which one would hold more. Why do you think that would hold more? Test it out.

40. Pick up a variety of objects and use “hefting” to decide which object is heavier. Sort the objects from heaviest to lightest. You may want to test this with scales to see if you are correct.

41. Using a variety of objects, talk about what is heavy and what is light. Find some books (animals are good) and talk about if an animal is heavy or light. Is an elephant heavy? Is a mouse heavy?

 Compare and order duration of events using everyday language of time (ACMMG007)

42. Take 2 activities such as tying a shoelace, opening a door, etc. Decide which one would take the longest/shortest time to do. Discuss this and test it.

32. Find activities in magazines, like cooking dinner, sleeping, catching the bus…familiar everyday activities the student would do. Order them by duration and glue.

44. Do the same with activities and sequence these, e.g., waking up, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, getting dressed and so on. You can find all these images online to print out. Laminate them if you will be using them over and over.  

Connect days of the week to familiar events and actions (ACMMG008)

45. Make up a timetable – Monday to Sunday. Talk about what the student does each of these days. Find images to print and glue into the days, e.g. school, Grandma’s place, soccer, pool, etc.

46. You can do the same for a school day. Create a timetable of the day. What do you do when you get to school, what next?

Measurement and Geometry - Shape

Sort, describe and name familiar two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional objects in the environment (ACMMG009)

47. Make up a table 4x2.  Write up the top of each column – square, triangle, circle, square. Go outside and find the 2-dimensional shapes in the environment or cut images from magazines and paste. Draw them under the correct column, e.g., you may find a circle as the school clock. We have a free Colour and Shape Match activity you can also use. 


48. Use straws and play dough to make your own shapes.

49. Find pictures in magazines and sort into hoops named spheres, cubes and cylinders. Add the pictures to the correct hoop, e.g. add a picture of a ball to the sphere hoop.

50. Make your own sphere by blowing up a balloon and  covering with paper mache. Make sure you leave a hole in the top to pull out the balloon.

Measurement and Geometry  - Location and transformation

Describe position and movement (ACMMG010)

51. Use a dolls house or similar. Take a doll and talk about where it is in relation to the house. Is it behind, on, above, below, inside, outside, under.

52. Go outside and have students stand somewhere. I see you. Are you under the tree? On the grass? Behind the building? 

53. Follow directions to do an obstacle course – go around the tree, step over the log, go between the swings, step behind the slide, etc.

54. Glue a picture of a tree onto a large piece of paper. Give students things to glue where directed, e.g. glue the bird above the tree, glue the flower under the tree, glue the boy next to the tree, glue the nest on the tree.

Statistics and Probability - Data representation and interpretation

Answer yes/no questions to collect information and make simple inferences (ACMSP011)

55. Ask students questions such as what is their favourite ice cream. Give them a cone to colour in brown for chocolate, pink for strawberry and so on. Create a picture graph with the cones. SEE OUR Free resource on ice cream cones.

data activity

56.Create human graphs by lining up everyone with black hair next to everyone with blonde hair/brown hair/red hair. Talk about what colour hair is the most common in this classroom? You could use boys/girls; curly hair/straight hair; long/short, eye colour and so on. These are great to do just before recess, e.g. everyone with curly hair stand up. How many people have curly hair? Does our class have more people with straight hair? Curly hair people can go to recess first today.

57. Collect flowers or leaves and sort into shapes that are similar/colours. Talk about what you have more of, less of, etc.

58. Do a survey of another classroom with help. Do a tick or tally mark for each answer to a question such as spaghetti or sausages for dinner?


More Posts