Story Mats – Setting the stage for number stories

When I work in early primary classrooms, I like to bring interesting counters to play with – farm animals, lizards, insects, dinosaur, frogs and ladybugs are among my favourites.  With these creatures, there are so many things to count and sort and examine – far more than on a standard cube or round counter.  Best of all, these “creature counters” can move – and as the creatures crawl, slide, hop and gallop, they mirror the important action in a math problem.  Traditionally, we understand addition as the joining of sets, and subtraction as the separating of it.  When children have manipulatives that are capable of movement, they can model these actions to tell addition and subtraction stories!

One way to promote this kind of thinking is to provide students with a “story mat” for their counters.  Because I have dinosaurs and lizards, bugs and frogs in my “creature counter” collection, I print off lily pads and farm scenes, jungles and dessert habitats for the creatures to explore.  As the children play, horses joining others in a grassy field are transformed into addition stories; frogs hopping off of lily pads become subtraction stories – all we have to do is to name it for them, and for those who are ready, to introduce a structure for recording their thinking.

I know that some of you have asked for these story mats, so I have attached them here:


Have fun!


5 responses

  1. I was sent an email last week that was password protected. I am really interested in reading this as it is about multiplication (Mastering the basics part one). How do I or can I get the password?

  2. Very neat idea! I’m sure the children have a lot of fun with those creative little “creature counters”!

  3. Margraret Choinski | Reply

    These are beautiful Carole! When I get more ink, I’ll print them off.
    I use this kind of thing all the time and have about 10 or so black line masters of locations like a farm, a house, some grass, a cave etc that I get parents to colour and then laminate. I have a class set of each. I will try to find the masters and send you a copy. They are easy to photocopy at school!
    Still love teaching math!!

  4. Hi Carol,

    I would love to get a copy of your mats but the link is not working. I started making some of my own using a fishbowl, rocketship, and playground. It is a great idea to develop oral language around the operations.

    Do you have any mats that are helpful to scaffold particular addition strategies?

    Thanks so much!

    Leah Turner

  5. Hello, Leah –
    Sorry about the link. I’ve fixed it so it works now…..

    I use these story mats for both operations – since my thinking is that they work for both. Ok, maybe not the fishbowl so much, but…. :o)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: