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Assessing Preschool Math Skills

assessing math skills

Assessments… I don’t know about you, but that word makes me a little ho-hum… and assessing math skills makes me even more ho-hum!

Assessments drive instruction.  So, are they necessary in an early education program? Of course.  Even though assessments help me see a bigger picture… data has just never been my thang.  

Plus, when I think of the words ‘testing’, ‘screening’ or ‘assessing’ I think of bubbles, scan-trons (dating myself) and scores.  I never appreciated being reduced to a test score and I by no means want this for my students.  Academic learning isn’t everything afterall.

But, even just the thoughts of testing make me want to run far away (and I loathe running). Probably because testing makes me think of the long, tedious, mind-boggling episodes of my youth.

Yeah… that ^ kind of testing was SOOOO not happening in my classroom.

Surely there is a way to make assessing students more ‘play’ friendly.  And it turns out there is- GAMES!

So, let me share with you some games we play so I can get a sneak peek into those little brains and assess what math skills they know…


Can students count with 1-1 correspondence?

Assessment idea:  Play a simple path game to assess how students count with 1-1 correspondence.  All you need is a dot die, game mover and a path gameboard. Observe as students count the dots on the die and count the spaces on the board.  Do they use one to one correspondence when touching the dots and counting? How about when moving spaces on the game board?

Identifies Numerals:

Can students identify numerals 0-10?

Assessment idea: Play the parking lot game.  Grab a sentence strip and make parking spaces from 0-10.  Provide 11 toy cars or vehicles. Instruct the student to park a car on a numeral and have them ‘drive’ a toy car into the correct parking spot.

Matches Numeral with Quantity: 

Can students match quantities and numerals up to 10?

Assessment idea: Create a matching game with numerals 0-10 and cards with the quantities 0-10 on them. You could easily create the quantity cards by using stickers.  Students count the quantity card and find the matching numeral card.


Can students know how many objects are present, without counting, up to 5?

Assessment idea: Play the silly subitizing game. Tell students the game is a silly one because there is no counting aloud!  Roll a die. Can the student tell you how many dots are on the die without counting them?  If so, they are a subitizing master!  You could also use small blocks of different amounts or mini erasers to test their ability to subitize.

Spatial Location:

Can students demonstrate knowledge of spatial locations such as:  on, under, between, out, in, around, beside, over.

Assessment idea: Use a cup and a toy figure (make sure it can fit in the cup). While the cup is facing up, have the students place the toy in the cup, out of the cup and beside the cup.  Now, flip the cup over. Have the students place the toy under the cup, make the toy go over the cup, and around the cup.  Then, place your hand next to the cup (give enough space for the toy). Instruct students to put the toy between the cup and your hand.

2D Shapes:

Can students name simple 2D shapes such as: circle, square, triangle, oval, rectangle, diamond/rhombus?

Assessment idea: Play a Cover-Up Shape game. Have students spin a shape spinner or draw a card with a shape on it. They name the shape and then use a mini eraser or bingo marker to cover the same shape on the cover-up game board.


Can students sort objects by different attributes such as: color, size or shape?

Assessment idea: Sorting by color can be done using many different types of manipulatives. In the photo below we are using Bear Family counters – which also work great for sorting by size.  Sorting by type can be done with silverware, different types of dry pasta or using multiple sets of mini erasers.


Can students finish a color, sound or object pattern using AB, ABB and ABC patterns?

Assessment idea: Use basically any hands-on colored items can work for creating color patterns. Items might include: colored squares, sorting bears, counters, even crayons!  To create object patterns try using things like pattern blocks, mini erasers or pasta in different shapes!


Can students place objects in order by size?

Assessment idea: Give students a set of picture cards of varying sizes. You could make copies and reduce the copy size each time to make a set from a hardcopy picture card/image.  Or, you could cut 4-5 straws into varying lengths. To play, ask children to put the pictures or straws in order from biggest to smallest.

Don’t let assessing math skills get you down – just look at how you can assess in a different way!

Cutting Down on Assessment Time

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I love helping preschool teachers be the best they can be, by providing quality resources and sharing fun ideas!

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