Building Number Sense with Guided Math

Math has always been one of my favorite subjects to teach. Over the years I’ve found the best and most effective way to help my students feel confident and grow in math was Guided Master Math. Not only do they love it and look forward to it, but I know exactly where they are at daily by using this guided math program. The first unit is all about building number sense so let’s dive in!

building number sense with guided math unit 1

“Master” is an acronym that I created to include all the important pieces of math that I want to cover daily.

A=apply skills
S=small group

The first unit in my guided math curriculum is Number Sense. This unit exposes students to a variety of ways to count and group objects. Students learn the how and why we group by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s, make tallies, use ten frames, and use a number grid up to 120. These tools help build the foundation for math and support students when they need it throughout the year. All my units are based around a theme for any time of the school year. This unit is gumball-themed.

To read all about the steps and how I run Master Math, you can check out my previous blog post, “Guided Math Using MASTER Math Curriculum.” Today I’m going to share with you the different parts of my number sense unit. Each day we meet and go over some slides to introduce the topic. They are learning slides as well as what they will be completing in rotations. After our whole group mini lesson, we begin Master Math.


Kids need to move and manipulate math in order to learn. Having hands-on activities allows you to reach those learners who need to touch objects to learn. In this unit, we use cubes to count by 2’s, 5’,s, and 10’s, we practice making numbers with ten frames, we work on making tally combinations with dry erase markers, and finally, we put together 120 charts. The huge floor puzzle for the 120 chart is always a huge hit!

Apply Skills

During this rotation, students take what they have learned and apply it in the form of a game. Playing games not only helps build their math skills but also works on collaboration and life skills. This rotation is noisier but it’s a healthy productive noise level. There are several cover-all board games included, and a roll and color number grid game. The game rotation is probably the class favorite.

Small Group

When children come to small group, we work on learning and practicing the new skills. It is so fun working with them in a smaller setting because you instantly see if they are understanding. In the number sense unit, we focus on marking objects as we count them, circling and grouping the objects to count faster, creating tallies with the crossover, counting on using ten frames, and maneuvering on a 120’s chart.

counting using ten frames guided math small group instruction


Well as we all know, technology is essential these days. Kids love the chance to use technology and it is our goal to reach our learners in any way we can. I included both Google Slide and Boom Activities in my guided math units. I know not everyone wants to pay for a Boom Membership and some prefer Google. Personally, I prefer Boom because it’s self-grading and gives me a report on their progress. In this unit, they count tallies and record the number, add ten frames, figure out the hidden number on the number grid, and count gumballs in the gumball machine.


This isn’t an actual rotation, but it is always open. If children finish early during review or small group, they can work on this rotation. For this unit, the activities are open-ended. They can begin building a number book where they choose a number and show me different ways to represent that number. This is also the beginning of scrolling. You can read more about number scrolls here at this previous blog post (and grab a freebie, too!)

number sense activities book


Reviewing is essential in math. We once had a spiraling math program and I loved it for the review. This gives children who still need more practice an opportunity for mastery. It also keeps all the concepts fresh for your students. This center is meant to be independent and completed without teacher support. A lot of times, I have them help one another if need be. Also, I began making the worksheets in review green so I could quickly grab them and distinguish between small group work. Just a quick visual always saves time.

review activities for guided math

At the end of each unit, there is an assessment. Since we don’t do rotations on assessment day, I have created a fun cumulative craft for the themes. In this unit, we make gumball machines. The children use paint sticks and pick how they want to count their gumballs by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, or 10’s. Then they add the gumballs by color that way and write the total. There are also so many other components in this unit from lesson plans, assessment recording sheets, I can posters, binder covers, and book suggestions, I am confident your students will love this unit as much as mine do!

gumball number sense craft

Here is what a few people had to say about Number Sense Guided Master Math Unit 1:

“This resource is excellent. It exceeded my expectations and I ended up purchasing the entire curriculum. I use it daily and LOVE IT!”

“This is a great resource to reinforce counting to 120 and the skills that go along with it! My kids love it, and I cannot wait to implement the manipulatives in my math centers!”

“I love the way this is set up! This makes math planning and prep so easy! Students love the fun activities too!”

“LOVE these units! Very engaging and I feel like my students are really mastering each standard!”

building number sense activities for guided math

Shop this unit right here on my blog!


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I’m Megan, a first grade teacher and a mother to 7 amazing children. I love to create and collaborate with teachers. When I’m not teaching, I love spending time with my family, baking and playing tennis.

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