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  • Writer's pictureLara

Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics Tasks for Kindergarten!

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

I’m still in the experimentation phase of BTC. I’m trying to see what works best for my students, the types of tasks, manipulatives, creating partnerships, and more. You can learn more about how I started Building Thinking Classrooms in Kindergarten and my update here.


If you'd like to jump right to the tasks click here!


graphic saying "where do you find tasks for kindergarten" and a how many squares thinking task

Finding Tasks


I’ve found inspiration for my tasks from the Building Thinking Classrooms book as well as from youcubed.com and NRICH.org, with some 3-Act-Tasks sprinkled in, with that being said, it has been a challenge to find tasks appropriate for Kindergarten when some students have not yet developed their concept of number (Identifying, knowing the quantity, and the number sequence). You can try a free task here!


Presenting Tasks


Getting into character and really selling a story to go along with the task increases engagement in my students. I also have to be purposeful with the manipulatives I use because if they are too fun and its a toy 🤦🏽‍♀️. (The only exception is when doing a counting collections session when the kids are motivated to count their collection to get to different bags and manipulatives). I may use some slides or visuals sparingly to clarify or if a visual is part of a task but the majority of what the kids need to know is given verbally, especially since a lot of Kindergarteners are still learning how to read.


Random Grouping and Finding a Space


My first “task” was more about understanding the procedure of getting a random partner, finding the right space to work, and sharing the marker. To create groups I used these free matching color cards with a corresponding space in the room. I wanted the kids to see that the grouping was random and find the appropriate space. The numbers also helped when I moved to using Classroom Screen to generate groups if we were low on time. The task my students had was to draw on the whiteboard only and share the marker with their partner. I noticed they did a great job sharing the marker but were not working together to draw they were just in the same space.




Examples of Tasks I’ve Used


Building a Tower Together

To get the kids working together toward a common goal, I gave each pair of students the same number of wooden blocks and their task was to build on structure together (a tower, castle, bridge etc.) They did really well and were motivated to build, one or two groups needed reminders to build together and not two separate structures.

Drawing a Picture Together

After the success of the tower building, their next task was to create a picture together on the board. It was still a bit of a challenge for them so I stopped them mid-session to model what it might look like to decide on one picture and add items to it, they were much more successful afterward.


How Many Are There?

This task I separated this into two parts. I gave each pair a bag with magnets and the first part of the task was to count the items and decide how many there were. There were 10 or below in each bag since it was the beginning of the year. The second part of the task was to show how many there were. The students naturally wrote numerals to go along with their count, labeling each magnet or only writing the total.

Graphic saying "3 Princes and the Yellow Princess. How can each prince have a turn to be first, what happens when the yellow princess wants a turn too?!" Contains images of green, red, and blue unifix cubes, matching crayons and a recording sheet for answers

3 Princes

This task was adapted from 3 Block Towers from NRICH.org. In this task, the students are given three cubes of different colors and asked to find all the combinations of colors there could be in a tower. I have used this task in the past but keeping in mind the storytelling suggested in BTC I decided to spice it up. The story was, “Once upon a time, there were 3 princes who were brothers, the red prince, the green prince, and the blue prince. Each prince decided they wanted to be on top of the tower. After a lot of discussions, they decided that they should each get a turn on the top, as the middle and the bottom of the tower. What are all the different combinations of colors on the tower are there?” I added a visual of the same and different before getting them in groups and having them start. They recorded their answers with crayons and this recording sheet. As a thin slice or extension for groups, I asked what would they look like if their sister Princess Yellow wanted a turn too. They received a yellow cube and crayon and flipped their recording sheet to the back where the spaces were. The students were very engaged in this task and worked for 30 minutes straight without me! This a great non-curricular task to start with you can also get them HERE on the website store!



How Many Squares?

This task was adapted from the BTC book, starting with fewer squares than the original. The students had to figure out how many squares were on the page. They had trouble understanding that 4 small squares could also be seen as 1 big square that could also be counted. They also had trouble getting past the fact that there were more than nine squares. (I later gave them a similar task with more squares and they did better with it) I used these slides to set up the task and two different recording sheets for thin slicing that included a brief review of what a square is at the features of it before they started working. You can also get them here on the website store!


Which is Greater?

This task is adapted from the BTC book. In this task, 7 and 8 are in a tiff. 7 thinks he is more, but 8 disagrees. They need your student's help to settle this dispute. Which is bigger or greater, 7 or 8. This task is a great opportunity for students to get help from others or help other students if they finish.

Graphic that says "building thinking classrooms tasks 7 and 8 have beef! which is bigger?" with images of 7 vs 8 clip art on a computer screen and images of 2 examples of students work showing 7 is greater that 8 as a tower and matching numbers 1 to 1

What Comes Next?


Graphic with images of 1 square, then 4 squares stacked 2 by 2 then 9 squares stacked 3 by 3 with text that reads "5 Stages Growing Patterns what would stage 4 and 5 look like?" and an image of student work with inch tiles and drawing their work on white boards

I used this task when we had been learning about growing patterns. This task can be found at gfletchy.com called the 5 Stage Series. This task shows students a series of three pictures of inch tiles arranged in a growing pattern. The task then asks the students what the fourth arrangement or stage would look like, then the fifth. This can be thin sliced by asking for progressively higher stages. For this task, the students had access to inch tiles if they wanted to build the stages before drawing their answers. Get the slides here on TPT or HERE on the website store!


Which tasks will you try? If you have any tasks that you’ve tried please let me know!





graphic for building thinking classrooms tasks starter pack for k-1 low floor high ceiling engaging thinking tasks


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