Math at Home Math Access for Teachers
and Home Child Care Providers

CME Group Community Foundation



Dots of Fun
Children will explore the concept of addition by counting the dots on a domino.
Content Area Standard Target
  • Number and Operations
  • Algebra
  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems
  • Understand meanings of operations and how they relate to one another
  • Use mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships
  • Count how many
  • Add two numbers
  • Compare numbers
Increase your knowledge
Print this lesson (PDF file)
Share with parents (Word DOC)
Comment on this lesson
Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Book: Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews
  • Jumbo Foam Dominos (or other dominos)
  • Optional items:
    • Flashcards for numerals 0-12,
    • Flashcards with "+" sign and "=" sign
    • Paper and pencil for creating personal dominos or writing addition sentences

Note: Small parts create a choking hazard for children. Make sure that all materials you choose to use for an activity or lesson with children meet safety requirements. Small parts are not appropriate for children who are 5 years of age or younger.

Introduce the activity Introduce the Activity
  1. Read Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews to the children.  This book will show the children different things you can make with black dots and different ways you can count black dots.
  2. Count all of the dots on the domino.
  3. Explain to the children that on each domino there are three different amount of dots. 
  4. To demonstrate this, count the dots on the left side of the domino.  Next, count the dots on the right side of the domino. [Note: Depending on the children's current skills you might ask them to match the number of dots to a numeral either by writing the numeral or by finding a flash card with the matching numeral.]
  5. Explain to the children that the 3rd amount is the TOTAL number of dots.  To demonstrate this, count all of the dots together. 
  6. Say: "When you put the dots together and find the total number of dots you are ADDING."
  7. Repeat steps 2 through 6 using other dominos from the kit.
  8. Say: "Now you are going to use your own domino to practice addition."
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Tell the children that they are each going to get a domino and they will count how many dots are on their domino.
  2. Hand out one domino to each child.
  3. Ask the children to count how many dots are on the left side of the domino.  Ask: "How many dots are on the right side of the domino?" Ask: "How many dots are there all together?" Have each child answer individually with you checking and correcting any counting errors.
  4. Give each child another domino and repeat step 3.
  5. Ask:
    • "Do both of dominos have the same number of dots?" 
    • "Which domino has the least number of dots?"
    • "Which domino has the most number of dots?"
    • "Can you find someone in the circle who has a domino with the same number as one of your dominos?"
  6. Additional Ideas for extensions are:
    • Have the children match the flashcard numerals to each side of the domino and then also match the flashcard that represents the total number.
    • Have children create addition sentences for their domino, either by using flashcards with numerals and + and = symbols or by writing it on a piece of paper.
    • The children can play a version of the game “War” using the dominos.  Divide the dominos among the children.  Have the dominos facing down.  Have the children turn one of their dominos over, count the dots, and the person with the highest number of dots takes the dominos.  You can change the rules by having the domino with the least amount of dots win.
    • Children can create their own dominos by using black paper, cottonballs, and glue.  Fold the paper in half, glue cottonballs on each side, and write the addition sentence on the paper.
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • More – Greater in number or size (e.g., "7 dots is more than 5 dots.")
  • Fewer/Less – Smaller in number (e.g., "The side with 5 dots has fewer dots than the side with 6 dots.")
  • Same – Identical in kind or quantity (e.g., "The side with 6 dots is the same as the other side with 6 dots.")
  • Total – The complete amount of items counted (e.g., "What is the total number of dots on the domino?")
  • Numeral – The symbol used to represent a number or "how many" (e.g., "The numeral '2' represents the number of eyes I have.")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not know or identify the left and right side.
  • Not be able to count higher than 5 or 10.
  • Only count the total number of dots.
  • Want to build with the dominos.
  • Not have one-to-one corrspondence.
  • Not understand the concept of more than and less than.


Vertical line

Preschoolers may:

  • Not know or identify the left and right side.
  • Need to start with smaller numbers in order to understand the concept.
  • Be able to write the number of dots on their domino and want more of a challenge.
  • Want to build with the dominos.


Home child care providers may:

  • Use a sheet of paper to cover each side of the domino that is not being used to allow children to focus on only one side at a time.
  • Use only the dominos in the kit that add up to 5 or 10.
  • Have the children identify the dominos of equal value and then they can build with them.
  • Provide assistance when children are counting to emphasize counting one by one with the dots on the dominos.
  • Have the children focus on counting using one-to-one correspondence.


Home child care providers may:

  • Start with the smaller number dominos.
  • Provide paper and pencils to write the numerals and also show them the + and = symbols to create an addition sentence.
  • Ask the children to build using dominos of a certain value.
  • Ask the children to place the dominos with the same total value together.
  • Tell the children to match the dominos with the same number dots together.
  • Use extension ideas above in lesson.


Books Books
  • Math Dictionary for Kids by Theresa Fitzgerald (Austin, TX: Prufrock Press Inc., 2011)
  • Counting Crocodiles by Judy Sierra (New York: Harcourt, 1997)
  • Secret Agent Josephine's Secret Spy Numbers by Brenda Ponnay (Tustin, CA: Xist Publishing, 2011)


Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Collect items such as rocks, leaves, or acorns.  Children can sort the items, and on a folded piece of paper, place some of the items on one side of the paper and place some of the items on the other.  Count the items on the one side, count the items on the other, and finally count how many items there are in total.
  • Children should sit in a circle.  Call up some of the children and have them split into two groups.  Count the number of children in each group.  Then count the total number of children.


Explore links Web Resources
  • Funbrain on the Rocks
    This website provides math games as well as games in other subject areas.  Children are engaged in fun as they learn and develop math skills in math arcade games or math baseball.
    This comprehensive website is fun and engaging.  Children can review math concepts and practice math skills.  Activities and concepts are broken up into age groups thus simplifying age appropriate learning.
    This is an excellent resource for finding and using virtual math manipulatives for children Pre-K through 2.




Empty speech bubbleComment on this lesson




To report a problem with the site, please email us.

© 2011. M.A.T.H.