This is a fun sidewalk chalk activity that gets everyone moving and having interesting conversations about numbers! Draw a number line outside with even spacing. Each child picks a number to start on. The facilitator says add three (kids all move/hop three numbers right), take away 2, or double or triple your number. After each move, ask your kids what number they are on and if the distance between them is changing or staying the same. Kids notice they are moving the same distance. Ask them what distance this is. This can be challenging as kids often count the dashes on the number line rather than the spaces between the numbers. If they are confused, have them walk the distance to see how many steps/jumps they take to get from one number to the next. When they double or triple the number the distance changes. This can be an interesting conversation as well.
You can also use this to introduce and have conversations about negative numbers. How many jumps to get back to zero? What are the distances between 2 and -2? Between 1 and -2? What if you double -4? What do you end up getting?
You can also ask questions about what numbers are between the dashes?
What is between 0 and 1? -2 and -3?
There are many modifications you can make to this activity, like having the number line go by 2’s or 5’s or creating a coordinate grid rather than a number line.
The embodied cognition in this task helps students internalize the number system and create a model of how numbers relate to each other. It also allows them to develop a model for understanding the meaning of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing numbers and how these different operations impact the numbers.
We learned about this activity from Jenny Ruef, a mathematics education researcher. This lesson is adapted from the lesson Line Dancing, in book 7 of the Mindset Mathematics Series.