Monday, December 31, 2012

Math Tub Time! {Freebies included}

Do you use math tubs?  They are a BIG hit in my room each year and I'm always on the lookout for some new ideas for tub-fillers.

When I started teaching kindergarten a few years back, I knew I wanted to utilize math tubs.  I had 20 students so I wanted to have 20 different math tubs available.  20 at one time?? Yes, let me explain.   I taught whole group math on Mondays and guided groups with specific station activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Wednesdays and Fridays were reserved for what I referred to as "Tub Time."  It was a specific 30 minute block where my kids were able to review past concepts, build on current skills, or explore with manipulatives.  I wanted these tubs to be engaging, fun, and beneficial.  It was also a time when I could pull a small group or an individual for reteaching if needed, or just mingle around the room to observe my students in action.
At the beginning of the year I would place specific tubs in front of each student.  By the end, my students were able to freely choose which tubs they wanted to work with.  We would rotate or swap tubs every 5 minutes so that we were able to work in about 5 tubs each day.  This timing worked well for my class because it encouraged my kiddos to get to work right away, therefore eliminating their time off task.  Plus, these tubs were meant to be quick review lessons or exploration activities- not lengthy assignments.

A lot has changed since that first year!  In the beginning, I put so much thought and planning into my tub activities.  I'll be honest...sometimes I even went a little overboard.  :)  I had specific cutesy activities for each season and I spent so much time cutting and laminating!  We've all been there, right? By the end of the year I realized that the tubs that were the most popular were the basic ones that required few pieces and little planning time.  Phew!

Here are some examples of a few "staples" that stuck around.

  • Connect-the-dot pictures are great for number order.  You can find a huge selection of free ones on the internet that range in difficulty.  
  • Pattern blocks are also wonderful!  You can provide templates (also many free ones on the internet) or challenge students to create their own pictures, numbers, etc. with the blocks.  
  • Beads and string are great for patterning!  You can usually find large beads for pretty cheap.  I prefer the wood ones and shoelaces.
  • You can find the racetrack numbers and shapes at  Print and add a race car or two!
  • I found this Vtech handheld math game on clearance for $4 at Wal-Mart a few years back.  Well worth the batteries it runs through each year!
  • A geoboard and a hand full of rubber bands make for an exciting math tub!  You can provide picture cards for the kids to duplicate.  The number 7 is pictured but I found a great variety of shapes and designs for free online.  I shrank them down to card size and I add different cards to spice up the tub throughout the year.
  • These shape puzzles came from the Target Dollar Spot last year.  They look simple but they are really quite difficult!  You have to have a good grasp on shapes and spatial sense to work them quickly.
  • These lacing cards also came from the Target Dollar Spot {love that place!}.  It always amazes me how difficult lacing is for 5 year olds.  You can even challenge your students to lace a shape or number into the rectangle board.
The activities mentioned above usually are available all year for my students to work with.  I do have other tub activities that I change out seasonally or when we have successfully mastered a skill and are ready to move on.  Some of these include Roll and Cover games and Count and Clip games.  Both are favorites with my kids!  They love to predict what the next theme will be.  :)

Here are two "Star Friends" activities that I created specifically for math tubs this year. 

You can grab your own copy of these activities by clicking on the pictures above.  Add a few dice and counters for the Roll and Cover game and a handful of clothespins for the Count and Clip game and you are all set. {To make the clip game self-checking, just add stickers or dots to the back to show the correct answer!}

Of course this Roll and Cover game will be in a tub for January! :) {click to download for free}

I hope I have given you some inexpensive ideas on how to fill up those math tubs!  I'd love to hear about what types of things you put in the math tubs in your classroom.  Feel free to leave a comment below!

I'm always pinning new ideas to my "All About Math" pinboard on Pinterest. Repin away if you see something worth using!


  1. Thanks for the new year's roll and cover games. We'll play those the first week back. Happy New Year!
    First Grade Found Me

  2. Thanks so much for the games! Boys will go crazy for them! I love getting the insight into how you run your math tubs. Those are all fabulous ideas! Thanks for sharing!

    I'm off to follow you on Pinterest!

  3. I use math tubs too. It never occurred to me to laminate dot-to-dots and some kids REALLY need them. Brilliant!
    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs

  4. Those are some fabulous ideas for math tubs!! : I also love using pattern blocks in 2nd grade. Thanks for sharing!!

    Second Grade Sparkle
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  5. Thanks for sharing your great ideas for math tubs. Love the roll and over games!


  6. Where did you get the tubs you use to hold the materials? Thanks!

    Be A Nut with Mrs McNutt

    1. I used to use the primary colored buckets that came with a cubby holder my last school provided. At my current school we do not have the cubbies so I just use baskets from the dollar store!

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