Number Pairs / Number Bonds Activities (PreK-2): Part 2

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

This post will feature some more number pairs / number bonds activities as well as ideas for informal assessment (along with some FREEBIES).  See the previous post for Part 1.  Also, here is another cool virtual manipulatives site:  You will find lots of materials for students to use to help with these activities:  counters, bears, two-color counters, whole-part-part templates, Rekenreks, etc.  Check it out!

For all of these activities, the student should be working with the number of manipulatives to match their focus number.  They should do several different activities using that same amount to get lots of different experiences making the same number pairs repeatedly.  After a generous amount of practice, assess the child and move to the next number when ready. An important feature of each activity is for the student to verbalize the combination being made. Using a sentence frame they can have with them or putting it on the board for all to see is a plus:  “____ and ____ makes _____.” Students will usually need reminders that you should hear them saying this.  It takes if from just playing to being cognizant this is a serious math activity.

  1. Heads or Tails:  Use coins and a whole-part-part template.  The student shakes and gently drops some coins (stick to one type of coin). Then sort according to how many landed on heads vs. tails by placing them on one of the templates.  Say the combination outloud:  “5 heads and 2 tails makes 7.”  Repeat.  Here’s a FREE Coin Toss recording sheet.
  2. Paper Cups:  The student finds different ways to place small paper cups up or down to match their focus number.  Example:  To make 7 I could have 5 up and 2 down, or 6 up and 1 down, or 4 up and 3 down, etc.
  3. Hiding or “Bear in the Cave”:
    • Use a small bowl, clean plastic butter tub, etc. and some objects (cubes, stones, beans, cheerios, M&Ms).
    • With a partner and the number of objects matching the student’s focus number, partner 1 closes their eyes while partner 2 hides some of the counters under the tub and the rest outside or on the tub.
    • Partner 1 opens his eyes and names how many outside the tub and then tries to determine the number hiding.
    • Partner 2 can then reveal if partner 1 was correct or not.
    • Calling it “Bear in the Cave” was the idea of a math specialist I follow and clicking on this link will take you to her site with the opportunity to get the directions and recording sheet (Math CoachsCorner: Bears in the Cave freebie)
    • Be sure when students are playing that they say the number pairs outloud such as, “3 and 4 make 7.”
  4. Roll and Cover Game / Four in a Row:
    • Items needed:  A blank grid template (4×4 or larger), counters or crayons for each player (up to 3), and one of the following to create numbers needed to play (spinner, number cards, custom dice).
    • With the grid template, create the game board by randomly placing all of the numbers making up the number pairs for the focus number and fill up the grid. If working on number pairs of 6 as pictured, place these randomly:  0, 6, 5, 1, 2, 4, and 3
    • Using a spinner, custom dice, or number cards, select the first number (example 5).  Make this sentence frame:  “2 goes with ____ to make 6.”  Locate the missing number on the grid and put a counter there (or color if using a printed worksheet). How to create an easy spinner: Draw one with the number of spaces needed and duplicate for multiple students. To use, students place a pencil vertically on the center of the spinner to hold a paper clip at the center. Spin the clip.
    • The object is to try to get 4 of your counters (or colors if using a worksheet) in a row (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally).  Blocking your opponents may be necessary to keep them from getting 4 in a row.
    • A freebie attached for Number Pairs of 6 (same as picture):Capture A game of six CE
  5. Stories:  Students can create stories using pictures from clip art or other art work:

    6 children and 1 adult = 7 OR 4 girls and 3 boys = 7  Or 2 pink shirts + 5 other shirts = 7


  1. This page can be used to record a student’s mastery of the number pairs / bonds.  On all assessments, observe if student names hiding amount immediately (meaning fact is known) or uses fingers or other counting methods such as head-bobbing, etc. For mastery, you want the student to be able to name the missing amount quickly.Click here for free PDF copies: Number Bond Assessment by CE and Number Pairs assessment class recording sheet CE
  2. The Hiding Game above can also be used as an assessment as the teacher controls how many showing / hiding.  Ask the same questions each time:  “How many showing?”  and “How many hiding?”
  3. Folding dot cards:  Hold one flap down and open the other. Ask, “How many dots?”  Then ask, “How many hiding?”I got these free at one time from, but not sure they are available now. At any rate, they look easy to make.These are also good to practice with a partner.Here is a similar one I made for FREE with the PDF copy :Number Bond 3-10 assessment in part-whole format
  4. Whole-Part-Part Template:  Using a circular or square template, place a number or objects in one of the parts.  Ask student how many more are needed to create the focus number.  This can also be done with numbers only as shown in this picture.

Let us know if you have tried any of these, or if you have others that you’d like to share!  

As I’ve mentioned before, as a consultant I am available to help you as an individual, your grade level team, or your school via online PD, webinar, or just advice during a Zoom meeting.  Contact me and we can make a plan that works for you.  If you are interested in tutoring during your “spare time” check out my link for Varsity Tutors on the side bar.  Mention my name and we both get a bonus. Have a wonderful, SAFE week.  Mask up for everyone!

Number Pairs / Number Bonds Activities (PreK-2): Part 1

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Learning the combinations for numbers (number pairs / numbers bonds) is critical for both operations — addition and subtraction. This is slightly different than fact families, but it’s related.  With number bonds, students learn all of the possible ways to combine 2 numbers for each sum.  Think of whole / part / part.  If five is the whole amount, how many different ways can it be split or decomposed?  For example these combinations illustrate ways to make 5:

  • 5 = 1 and 4  (also 4 and 1)
  • 5 = 2 and 3  (also 3 and 2)
  • 5 = 5 and 0  (also 0 and 5)

Knowing these combinations will aid a student’s understanding of the relationship of numbers as they also solve missing addend and subtraction problems.  For example:

  • For the problem 2 + ___ = 5.  Ask, “What goes with 2 to make 5?”
  • For the problem 5 – 4 = ____.  Ask, “What goes with 4 to make 5?”

I suggest students work on just one whole number at a time and work their way up with regard to number bond mastery (from 2 to 10). You may need to do a quick assessment to determine which number they need to start with (more of assessment both pre and post coming in Part 2). Once a student demonstrates mastery of one number, they can move on to the next. It is great when you notice them start to relate the known facts to the new ones. Here are a few activities to practice number pairs.  They are interactive and hands-on.

One more thing:  PreK and KG students could work on these strictly as an hands-on practice, naming amounts verbally.  Using the word “and” is perfectly developmentally appropriate:  “2 and 3 make 5”.  With late KG and up, they are ready to start using math symbols to illustrate the operation.

  1.  Shake and spill with 2-color counters: 

    Shake and Spill

    Use 2 color counters.  Quantity will be the number the child is working on.  Shake them in your hand or a small paper cup. Spill them out (gently please). How many are red? How many are yellow?  Record on a chart.  Gradually you want to observe the child count the red and then tell how many yellow there should be without counting them. This will also aid a student with subitizing skills (naming the quantity without physically counting the objects). To extend the activity, you can create a graph of the results, compare results with classmates, and determine which combinations were not spilled. Click on this link for the recording sheet shown:  Shake and Spill recording page

  2. Connecting cubes:  Use unifix or connecting cubes.  Quantity will be the number the child is working on. Two different colors should be available.  How many different ways can the child make a train of cubes using one or both colors?  If working with 5, they might show this:  1 green and 4 blue; 2 green and 3 blue; 4 green and 1 blue; 3 green and 2 blue; 5 green and 0 blue; or 0 green and 5 blue.  They could draw and color these on paper if you need a written response.
  3.  Ten frames: 

    Use a ten frame template and 2 different colored objects (cubes, counters, flat glass stones, candy, cereal, etc.) to show all of the cominations of the number the student is working on.  Using a virtual ten frame such as the one here virtual ten frame or here Math Learning Center – Number Frames are also cool – especially if you are working from home or don’t want students to share manipulatives.

  4.  On and Off:  This is similar to shake and spill above.  Use any type of counters (I especially love the flat glass tones for this myself) and any picture.  For my collection, I chose some child-friendly images on clip art and enlarged each one separately  to fit on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper (hamburger, football, flower, Spongebob, ice cream cone, unicorn, etc.).  Put the page inside a sheet protector or laminate for frequent use.  Using the number of counters the student is working with, shake them and spill above the picture.  Count how many landed on the image and how many landed off the image.  Like mentioned above, the goal is for the student to be able to count the # on and name the # off without physically counting them.  1st and above can record results on a chart or graph.  Often just changing to another picture, the student feels like it’s a brand new game!  You might also like to place the picture inside a foil tray or latch box to contain the objects that are dropped.  The latch box is a great place to store the pictures and counters of math center items.
  5.  Graphic organizers:  The ten frame is a great organizer as mentioned earlier, but there are two whole/part/part graphic organizers which are especially helpful with number pairs – see below.  Students can physically move objects around to see the different ways to decompose their number.

Check out Jack Hartman’s youtube series on number pairs from 1 to 10. Here’s one on number pairs of 5:   “I Can Say My Number Pairs: 5″ He uses two models (ten frames and hand signs) and repetition along with his usual catchy tunes.

Also, please check out the side bar (or bottom if using a cell phone) for links to Varsity Tutors in case you are interested in doing some online tutoring on the side or know students who would benefit from one-on-one help. Please use my name as your reference — Cindy Elkins.  Want some PD for yourself?  Contact me and I’ll work out a good plan to fit your needs!

Next post:  More activities for learning number bonds and assessment resources (both pre- and post-).  Take care!!