Early Finisher Activities: 9 Simple Math Ideas Kids Love

Looking for early finisher activities for your K-2 students? Check out these 9 easy-to-implement activities for math class.

Photo of a fish made out of pattern blocks. Text says: Early Finisher Activities: 9 Simple Math Ideas Kids Will Love

“Teacher, what can I do now?”

We hear it all day long from those early finishers looking for their next activity. But finding good early finisher activities isn’t easy. 

They need to be challenging, yet able to be completed independently.

Plus they should be engaging, but not too fun (or everyone else will rush through their work.)

And most importantly, they need to be manageable for the teacher. You don’t have time to print and cut things out every day!

Keep reading to find some simple, but engaging fast finisher activities that your students will love.

Quiet, Independent Activities

Tangrams and Pattern Blocks

Stretch your students’ problem solving and spatial skills by setting out puzzles with tangrams and pattern blocks. Offer them designs to create with the blocks. 

Keep this activity extra quiet by having them work on a felt square or by using foam blocks.

Photo of a fish made from pattern blocks. The blocks are on a piece of felt to make this a quite early finisher activity.

Silent Reading Corner

Add math books to your classroom library. Encourage students to read and explore these books when they finish their math activities.

Color By Number Pages

Reinforce the math skills students are learning by giving them color by number pages to complete. You can choose pages that relate to the math skills you are currently teaching, or select pages to review old skills and keep them fresh.

Photo of summer themed color by number pages, which make great early finisher activities.

Added bonus: kids can strengthen those finger muscles as they color!

Dot to Dot Pages

Whether the pages practice numbers to 30 or to 135, dot to dot pages are great early finisher activities. To the kids, it’s a fun little mystery, but in reality, students are practicing number recognition and sequencing as they work.

Creative Activities

Drawing and Coloring

Simply provide blank paper (or, better yet, scratch paper) and let students create their own pictures. Encourage a math connection by challenging students to incorporate a particular math skill in their picture:

  • a few select shapes
  • a pattern
  • a number (ex: turn 31 into a picture)
  • a certain number of objects (ex: include 5 of something in the picture)

As an alternative, offer them coloring pages that focus on math skills, such as patterns or shapes.

Just like the color by number pages, students can improve fine motor skills as they draw and color.

Shape Templates

Give students plastic shape templates and paper, then let them create unique designs. They’ll surprise you with their imaginations, creating anything from robots to outdoor scenes to abstract designs.

Photo of sun and tree made with geometric shapes from a plastic template.

Math Games

Games are perfect early finisher activities. They are easy to connect to math skills, but also engaging for kids. 

Warning: these games may be so fun that kids who are still working will want a turn. To help with that, allow everyone to play the game for a few days before adding to your early finisher activities. Then those who are still working won’t feel as left out.

As an alternative, allow some extra time at the end of the lesson for all of the students to be fast finisher who get to play the game.

There are so many fun options for math games:

War Games

Use playing cards or pre-made number cards to compare numbers by playing the traditional war game. Students won’t even realize they are practicing math skills as they play.

You can also easily create variations:

  • turn over two cards to create double-digit numbers (or three cards)
  • turn over two cards and add them together
  • turn over two cards and subtract them
  • play with groups of three students, to compare more numbers
  • use cards with tally marks, dot patterns or ten frames
Photo of a subitizing war game. The cards show dominoes that represent 16 and ten frames that represent 11.

No time to make cards? Save time with pre-made cards. Click here to check them out.

Find more simple math games in this blog post.

Memory Match

Play Memory Match using numbers, shapes, or number words. Keep it simple by simply finding matching pairs.

You can add a bit more challenge by matching things that go together, such as:

  • numeral and number word
  • two numbers that add up to 10
  • math equations and the answer
  • coins and their value
  • digital and analog clocks 

As you create your own games, keep in mind the number of pairs that will be manageable for your students. Often 5-6 pairs (10-12 cards) works well. 

Bingo

Kids love playing Bingo. And it is so easy to incorporate, math skills into the game – it is originally a number game, after all.

But, like so many other games, it so easy to create variations that connect to other math skills.

For instance, in this version subitizing skills are begin practiced. You can click here to get this Subitizing Bingo game.

Photo of a Subitizing Bingo board, showing ten frames, tally marks, fingers, and dots.

You can easily find Bingo variations to practice all kinds of other math skills, too:

  • coins
  • telling time
  • numbers within in a certain range
  • shapes

One challenge with Bingo: you will need to have a small group of fast finishers to play – one as a caller and the others as players.

A word of advice: a traditional Bingo game can take a fairly long time to play. First, students need to match five in a row. Second, it can take first graders a lot of time to scan a 5X5 board for the number that was called.

You can shorten the time for the bingo game by finding a version that uses a 4X4 board. This will  likely be more successful for small groups to use independently.

Keep Your Early Finisher Activities Simple but Fun

It’s nearly impossible ensure that all students finish their math work at the same time. But you can manage those early finishers by providing some simple but engaging activities, like those highlighted above.

And, with a little creativity, you can incorporate important math skills into the early finisher activities, while still keeping the planning easy for you.

Photo of a fish made out of pattern blocks. Text says: Early Finisher Activities: 9 Simple Math Ideas Kids Will Love.

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