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Number Line Activities for Teaching Open Number Lines

Number lines are an important mathematical tool! Teaching students to use open number lines to critical to their math journey. This post will give you important information about using open number lines. Read more to discover open number line activities that your students will love! You will also find some helpful resources and number line activities for teaching number lines at the end of this post.

Number Line activities for teaching open number lines!

What is an Open Number Line?

An open number line is a number line with no numbers or intervals. Yes, you read that correctly. They can be used as a visual representation of the mental math process. It’s a great way to help students begin to visualize different mathematical concepts and gain a deeper understanding of number sense. Open number lines do not have to be complicated for your students to learn!

Why are Open Number Lines Important?

Open number lines are a great example of getting our students to move from a concrete to an abstract process. In order to promote early math literacy, it’s important that students are exposed to a variety of mental math strategies. Rather than using manipulatives, open number lines are the easiest way to help students show their thinking on paper!

When we place numbers on an open number line, our students are able to see how the numbers compare to one another. They also save time rather than having students try to draw 100 numbers on a number line. Can you imagine what that would look like?

How to Use a Number Line

Before exposing your students to an open number line, I suggest they have a strong foundation using a regular or closed number line. This prior knowledge of how a number line works will help them immensely when tackling open number lines. When plotting numbers on an open number line, you will have a start and end number on the number line but no tick marks in between. Using mental math, students will plot numbers onto the blank number line based on where they think they should go. 

Let me show you an example. This open number line starts with 0 and ends with 20. If I wanted to add the number 5 to the number line, I would ask my students questions about where they think it should go.

Some questions to ask could be:

  • Is 5 closer to 0 or 20?
  • Is 5 halfway between 0 or 20?
  • Is 5 a small or large number?
Open number lines do not have to be complicated to learn! They help students begin to visualize different mathematical concepts.

It’s important as students begin to visualize where numbers are at on a number line that they learn the proper spacing of integers. One of the easiest ways to do this is to model where numbers go on a number line. Make sure that students understand that smaller numbers will be placed further to the left of a plot line while larger numbers will be placed farthest to the right.

Open Number Line Activities for Students

There are so many open number line activities to use with your students to get them practicing using the number line! I always suggest starting off with something fun and interactive so that kids are engaged in learning. Introducing a number line game will get your students excited about math! Although it can be as simple as drawing a line on a piece of paper, using fun activities will engage your students in their learning. Check out a variety of ways to use open number lines below.

Use Student Desks

Allowing your students to draw on their desks makes everything better! Using a dry erase marker, have them draw an open number line. Call out two numbers and have them label their number line with the start and end points. Then call out numbers for them to plot. This is a great opportunity for young learners to interact during your math lessons, plus they will have so much fun writing on their desks!

Play-Doh Number Lines

Students can either share or have their own can of Play-Doh. They will first roll a long number line onto their Rolling Number Lines Work Mat or on their desk.

After that, they will use task cards to write the starting and ending numbers for their number lines. You can also just call out numbers for them to write.

Lastly, have them use their finger to mash their number line to plot where numbers should go. This fun number line activity is perfect for math stations or math centers, independent practice, small group work or a whole group mini-lesson.

Open number lines do not have to be complicated to learn! They help students begin to visualize different mathematical concepts.

Bingo Dauber Number Lines

Using any open number line worksheet, have your students use bingo daubers to plot a given number. Although not every student’s dot will all be in the exact same spot, be sure to check for understanding that they are learning the correct area on the line to plot missing numbers.

Number Line activities for teaching open number lines!
Open number lines do not have to be complicated to learn! They help students begin to visualize different mathematical concepts.

If you don’t have bingo daubers, you could also use Q-tips and paint! Although it could get a little messy, it might be a fun game for a Friday afternoon!

Be sure as you tackle number lines with your students that you are exposing them to both open and closed number lines. Using hands-on activities helps students take ownership over their learning. Whichever of these number line activities you choose to practice with, your students will be sure to remember the fun they had learning! If you enjoyed the math activities mentioned, feel free to click below to grab them from my Teachers Pay Teachers shop for you and your students.

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