Number pebbles for counting and addition maths activities

Create some simple number pebbles to make a lovely, natural play resource to add to the counting and maths manipulatives at home or school. Perfect for counting, ordering, addition and subtraction activities, as well as being freely available and encouraging play with a range of natural objects.

Number pebbles for counting and addition games

Welcome to another in our ongoing series of Playful Maths ideas, co-hosted with Learn with Play at Home. We are focusing on using natural materials in maths play this week.

To make these number rocks we simply used a variety of pebbles collected from the beach and a permanent marker pen. We counted out 20 rocks and I added the numerals to each, and they were read to play with within seconds!

Counting and ordering with number pebbles

I set them out on a table top and Cakie started to play independently, making them into a little line and counting up from 1 as she did so, looking for the next pebbles to put in correct number order. She counted and recounted along the line as she got to the less familiar teen numbers, to check that she was looking for the right ones to go next. We talked about the fact that all teen numbers have a numeral 1 in front of them, and that we can often hear the next number, but not always. We also pointed out those tricky numbers 11 and 12 which don’t give any clue as to what they represent and tried to learn those by memory.

Ordering with number pebbles

She checked and counted thoroughly and put all the numbers in order from 1 to 20. Then she wanted another game to play so we found some of the teen number pebbles and played a numeral matching game.

Can you make this number 17 using two other pebbles? Which ones do you need and which way around will you place them? What if you put the 7 in front? Can you read that number now? We repeated this for all of the teen numbers, one at time, until she had a good idea of each one by sight. With an older child you could use this activity to introduce the concept of 10s and 1s making up double digit numbers.

Making 10s and 1s using number pebbles

Then we played a fun addition game using some of the single digit pebbles. If we have 6 and now add 3 more, how many will we have altogether? Using other small, plain pebbles or counters as manipulatives to count out the numbers is the best way for young children to work through addition at this stage, so that they can see it in practical form. Then select the rock that represents how many were found altogether! Older kids could then write these number problems down onto paper or try adding three or more numbers, or move onto some teen numbers too.

addition with number rocks

We have added these to a basket to go with our other natural resources and will soon be putting together a maths inspired activity table, where these would make a perfect addition for open-ended, investigative play.

Number pebbles resource for playful maths activities

Check out this gorgeous invitation to play with natural materials over at Learn with Play at Home and come back next week to see our next playful maths activity theme!

learn with play at home natural materials

Search our huge collection of Playful Maths ideas here through the archives, or over on our busy Playful Maths Pinboard too!


  1. Liliana says

    Hello, Iam Liliana fron Peru. Actually i study special educaton, my wish is to learn more than i konw. I have a homework is to do a class, the subject is any multiplication table

  2. kathy says

    Thanks for this posting. My 6 year old son is ALWAYS coming home with rocks and pebbles and I have been tossing them out. Now I have a creative and positive activity that he will love because he helped create it!

    So fantastic. Just found this site and it is on my favorites list.

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