Move Around

Years 1 - 6


Outside, or a gymnasium space are good places to use for this activity. A group of children, or the whole class if the game is well understood, write a number on their calculator within a given range. They then become a 'number line' by comparing, discussing and shuffling into position in the correct order. Suitable for threading.

Members can integrate this activity with other number line activities such as Plug Lines, Making Number Lines and Number Slider, which bridges the number line into place value.


  • One calculator per child


Select a group of children, say 10 or 12, and ask them to enter a number on their calculator which is between limits chosen by the teacher. (If you want to use the whole class as the participants, which is something to be cautious about, it is better to go outside.)
Now sort yourselves out so the person with the largest number is standing here and the person with the smallest number is at the other end of the line.

As you do this you will have to show each other your calculator screen and talk to each other.



  • decimal interpretation
  • mathematical conversation
  • negative numbers
  • number line - ordering, operations
  • numeral recognition
  • recording - calculator
  • writing numerals

Year 6 students moving around at St. Francis of Assisi, Calwell, in a playground with a very convenient grid marked out in the surface of the concrete.

Mathematical conversation ... peer teaching ... physical involvement ... learning

View the video of this lesson and a Year 3 lesson in Cube Tube.

  • In some classes children show a fascination in being at the ends. To avoid the 'crowding' that can result you might want to explain that the word 'between' doesn't refer to the end numbers.
  • Aside from this, what will the children do if there is more than one person with the same number? After all, each number is only represented once on a number line.
  • When the children have settled into an order, 'Number off' to check the sequence.
  • But are we showing the right distance between each number?
    Ask observing members of the class to move the line members so that their distances apart represent how they would stand if all the (appropriate) numbers in the range were included.
  • But what happens if someone comes late to class? Where will they stand?
    Write a number of your choice on a calculator and give it to one of the observing children. The person says the number out loud and asks Where will I stand?. The line children say where this should be and the observing children check and correct the position as necessary.
    Alternatively, some or all of the observing children can write their own number on their calculator, then stand in the line and the whole line can be checked again by 'numbering off'.
  • When the sequence is decided and 'scaled' ask each player to record their number anywhere on the whiteboard and return to their seat. The teacher records the original limits.
  • Now ask each person to sketch (rule?) a line in their journal, mark the limits and position the players' numbers on the line. Note that this part of the activity is about recording number sense ideas of position, sequence and scale on the number line and not an exercise in accurate measurement.


  1. Once an order has been established and checked, ask each person to add 10 to their number.
    Now put yourselves in order again.
    Repeat this on many occasions, asking children to operate on their screen number in a different way each time.

  2. Assign each number on a dice to stand for a different number range. eg:
    • 1 = 26 - 35
    • 2 = 36 - 45
    • 3 = 46 - 55
    • 4 = 56 - 65
    • 5 = 66 - 75
    • 6 = 76 - 85

    Children then roll a dice to discover their range and chose a number from it to type into their calculator. The children then 'Moves Around' as before.

  3. Try using overlapping ranges.

  4. Encourage discussion of decimals with ranges such as numbers between 1 and 2. With older children, negative numbers can also be included as limits.

Loxton North Primary School
South Australia

As part of the Maths on the Move 6-day workshop program titled Engineering 'aha' Moments in Number K-8, participants were challenged to choose an activity and Thread it into their curriculum for a few minutes a day, several days a week for a number of weeks. Staff from Loxton took up this challenge in the following way. A slide show they prepared to support this experience can be found in our Professional Development link.
At our school we used the activity Move Around in the Yr 1/2, Yr 3/4 and Yr 5/6/7 classes, adapting it in different ways. This activity involves the children having a number and then ordering themselves from the smallest number to the largest.

Year 1/2

We played the game with calculators. Children had to order themselves with numbers between 0 - 50, 30 - 80, 0 - 100 etc. No two children were allowed the same number. A lot of mathematical language occurred, eg: less/more, bigger/smaller, higher/lower. I let them see a number chart to start with but once they became more confident, I removed the chart. Some children chose numbers that were safe, ie: they knew where they were going to stand, others closed their eyes and keyed in a 2 digit number and then ordered themselves.
Bernie Lipman

Year 3/4

In Year 3/4 we looked at numbers between 1000 and 1,000,000. The children quickly took the challenge of trying to get the smallest and largest number. Some of the conversations were:
  • I have the smallest number, 1001.
  • No, I have 1000.1, which is smaller.
  • I have 999,999.9 which is the largest you can get.
  • Mine is larger 999,999. (which he checked on a calculator and found didn't work).
After discussions they found 1000.001 and 999,999.999 could be extended to make smaller or larger numbers. Children also enjoyed saying large numbers along with ordering them. I did nothing and the children taught each other.
Paul Haenen

Year 5/6/7

In the 5/6/7 class we had been studying measurement so I adapted Move Around to support converting measurements. I gave them each a card which had a measurement either in mm, cm or m and the children put themselves in order of size. Some of the conversations were:

Conversation A

Is this 4.6m? (4.006 on the card)
Don't you just take the zeroes out?
No you can't. Only if the zeroes are at the end.
Conversation B
Your 0.53m. That's bigger than 52cm.
If we all put them in centimetres it would be easier.
On other days they wrote their own measurements within a given range. A great way to practise conversions.
Janice Sawade

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