Do you love bear counters as much as I do? I don’t know why, but there’s something about those hard plastic round little belly bears that I love! It’s like counting bears just scream school to me. 🙂 So keep reading for some ideas for using counting bear mats and counters for math activities with kindergarten and first grade.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of math mats. I started using them with my students back in the 80s. This was before personal computers, TpT, and all the fancy stuff we have now. I needed something to help my students define their workspace while using manipulatives when adding. So I drew two circles using a plastic lid onto a piece of construction paper with a black marker, put a plus sign between them, and laminated it. I quickly whipped out several of those, laminated them, and stored them in a painted Tide box. They were still in use when I retired. Ok, maybe not the exact same ones, but some just like them.
Simple but effective. They got the job done. They designated a workspace, and some students really need that. Others would be perfectly fine without it. Depends on the learner.
At this young age, I try to have manipulatives and aids available that learners need to be successful.
Counting Bear Mats
I had a teacher message me about some specific counting bear mats that she thought I had in my store. I didn’t have what she was looking for but while I was waiting on her to reply I started creating counting bear mats that I thought might meet her needs and the needs of other teachers. The counting bear mats I created are fancier than those math mats I whipped out in the 80s, but they are still fairly simplistic so they’ll be easy on printer ink.
The teacher’s specific request was two bears at the top with a number line. She said she would call out a number and have her students write the number and then count out the bears.
With that little bit of information, I started creating counting bear mats. Counting bear mats in many formats! Counting bear mats with worksheets and in different formats so that they could be scaffolded and used for differentiation. And I still feel that these counting bear mats are open-ended and can be used in so many ways.
Ways to Use Counting Bear Mats
- Call out a number and have students count out the bears to match.
- Call out a number, have students find the number on the number line, circle the number with an erasable marker, write numbers up to that number on the line and count bears to match.
- Have student roll 2 dice, find the number on the number line, circle the number with an erasable marker, write up to that number on the line and count bears to match.
- Choose any activity above, then have student place the correct number in the circle using either a magnetic number or number tile, and lastly place the correct number of items in the ten frame to match. (plastic discs, pennies, buttons, mini pom poms, beans, etc)
- Use number specific counting bear mat and have student find the number on the number line, circle the number with an erasable marker, practice writing the number on the line, count bears to match, then have student place the correct number in the circle using either a magnetic number or number tile, and lastly place the correct number of items in the ten frame to match.
And because I always try to follow up with worksheets or activities for my students to complete independently to see how they’re mastering the skill, I also created several formats of worksheets that can be used for scaffolding, differentiation, or assessment.
Other Ways to Use Counting Bears
Of course, there are lots of other ways to use these cute counting bears in your classroom. As I was digging through all my manipulatives I realized I didn’t actually have any counting bears. I had counting dogs! The bears that I used in my classroom belonged to the school. So I had to purchase myself some bears for my photos.
It felt so weird purchasing math manipulatives but so fun, too. And I purchased the best bears ever on Amazon! They come in 3 sizes, so you know what you can do with them:
- sequence largest to smallest or smallest to largest. These bears are so cute! The bears I had at school were only one size and you couldn’t do this.
- sort into sizes large, medium, and small. Mats would be perfect for this.
- sort into colors. Again, a perfect activity for mats.
- pattern. With the 3 sizes the kinds of patterns you could create is endless … well not endless, but that’s a lot of patterning. You could just use one size and pattern with colors or you could do big bear, medium bear, small bear, repeat.
- non standard measurement. How many bears long is the pencil?
- greater than/less than. Use the bears to show quantity to help solidify the concept of more/less.
And that’s just some of the ways you can use those cute little tubby counting bears in your classroom! So grab you some of those small/medium/large ones from Amazon. And if you want to grab the Counting Bear Mats for your class, click the link below.
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