Creating a classroom environment that equips students with the tools and resources they need to be successful is one of the most important jobs we have as teachers.  As we design and set up our classrooms for the new school year, we need to brainstorm how we can create both a numeracy-rich and literacy-rich classroom. Each display, bulletin board, and area in the classroom needs to be thoughtfully planned out with students needs in mind. If you are thinking, “I don’t even know what a numeracy-rich environment? Where do I begin?” No worries! You’re in the right place!

This blog post will…
  • define what a numeracy rich environment is
  • compare and contrast numeracy-rich and literacy-rich environments
  • explain why a numeracy rich classroom environment is important
  • offer ideas about how to create a numeracy rich environment in your elementary classroom

A numeracy-rich environment, also commonly referred to as a math-rich environment, is a space that promotes and supports mathematical thinking and processes. Similar to how a literacy-rich environment surrounds students with written word in a natural way, a numeracy-rich environment surrounds students with numbers, mathematical concepts, math tools and manipulatives, and math vocabulary.

A numeracy-rich environment is focused on math, while a literacy-rich environment is focused on reading and writing. Both are centered on the idea that it is important to create spaces that promote and support learning.

A numeracy-rich classroom environment is important because it equips students with the tools and resources they need as problem solvers and math thinkers. By being immersed in an environment that fosters a positive mindset surrounding math, students become unafraid of making mistakes and taking risks, which is essential in this content area. This translates into a higher level of confidence in math abilities and higher levels of performance.


  • Designate a whole group area in your classroom where you will deliver whole group instruction, share and celebrate strategies, and have rich math discussions as a whole group. Consider these ideas when designing your whole group area: 1) The space is anchored by a rug, interactive board and/or white board. 2) Store teacher math manipulatives and whole group instructional tools in this area. 3) Store student toolkits and/or manipulatives close to this area so that they are easily accessible for students.  These tools should be in individual tool kits or organized and labeled in some sort of storage solution. 4) Assign learning spots on the rug so students have someone to turn and talk with. This will nurture collaboration in your classroom. Check out this blog post about class meeting areas to get more ideas on how to create an ideal space for whole group instruction during your math block.
  • Create a math focus wall near your whole group instruction area. Consider including the following items on your wall: 1) Math word wall, 2) anchor charts, 3) calendar, 4) accountable talk stems / math thinking stems / math talk, 5) hundred-twenty chart, 5) lesson objective(s) and essential question(s).
  • Design a small group instruction area. This is where you can host your guided math groups. Keep math manipulatives, instructional tools, and resources nearby. 
  • Emphasize the real world application of math concepts and skills, so students begin to develop an understanding of the purpose and importance of learning math. One way to do this is through reading children’s literature that have math concepts imbedded in them. Display these books in your classroom before, during, and after reading them.
  • Find options in your classroom where students can work independently to problem solve. This includes ideas like student desks and sitting on the floor with clipboards.
  • Provide areas in your classroom where students can work with partners and small groups. This could involve the way you set up student desks, offering clipboards, or small group tables.
  • Post a number line on the walls of your classroom. Position it so students can access it. This ideally means that students can touch it, so try to keep it low.
  • Use and encourage math language. Do this by 1) posting thinking stems and modeling using them during think alouds, 2) regularly and naturally using math vocabulary, 3) hosting number talks at least three times per week, 4) and requiring students to explain and justify their thinking.
  • Promote having a growth mindset around math. The best way to do this is to embodying it yourself. In addition to that, we can be sure to celebrate strategies, different ways of thinking, and small wins. Whether students are at the concrete, pictorial, or abstract stage of understanding a concept, it is important to celebrate where students are and where they are going.
  • Play math songs during transition times and snack.

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