Wash and Learn: Math in the Bath!

The kids have been having the most fun playing in our educational baths and showers!!  This week, we’re going to share with you a a recent math activity we did: Math in the Bath.  This one couldn’t be easier to set up and my 4 year old had a blast playing and learning with numbers!!  If you missed the letter building bath we did, be sure to check out our Alpha-Bath!

Wash & Learn: Math in the Bath!

math in the bath

I’ve teamed up with Crystal from Bath Activities for Kids to bring you a set of fun and educational bath times in a series fondly called Wash & Learn!  Today we are both featuring Math Baths!  Hop on over to her brand new site which just launched today to see her take on learning math in the tub!!

math in the bath

The Setup:
To set up our math bath, I cut ten 6″ x 9″ foam craft sheets in half.  I wrote the numbers 1-10 on ten of them using permanent marker.  On the other ten half-sheets in coordinating colors, I drew dots to match the numbers on one side and on the other side, I drew tally marks to match the numbers.  Before Luke climbed into the tub, I filled it up and floated all the foam numbers on top!

math in the bath

He has really been loving the baths and is always very excited when I tell him I am creating one for him!!  He could hardly wait to hop in!

math in the bath

We used a bath tub for this math bath that didn’t have surrounding walls.  I wanted to show you that even if you have a clawfoot tub or a tub that doesn’t have waterproof walls around it, you can fill the tub with a minimum amount of water and use the walls of the tub itself to stick the foam to!

Invitation to Play:
I didn’t give Luke any directions at all for this activity.  I waited to see what he’d come up with.  

Immediately he started counting dots and finding the matching number.  

math in the bath

Foam sticks when wet, so he paired the number foam with the dot foam and stuck them to the sides of the tub.  

math in the bath
math in the bath
math in the bath
math in the bath

After he had paired them all, he counted out loud in order from 1-10 while moving around the tub to point to the right number pair.  

math in the bath

Then he decided he wanted to line them all up in order.  He pulled them down in order from 1-10 and put them back up, creating a sort of number line.

math in the bath
math in the bath

It was during this process that he noticed the tally marks on the back side of the dot foams.  He converted all the dots to tallies on his number line.  

math in the bath

Luke had never seen tally marks before, so I briefly explained them.  My goal wasn’t for him to learn it in this instance, but just to be exposed to it in a fun environment so that next time he sees them, he’ll have a memory to associate with them.  Hopefully that will make learning them more interesting and easier!

After this, Luke pulled all the numbers off the side of the tub and stacked them altogether.  He said he was building a a ship!  He liked how even using all those pieces of foam together his invention still floated! 

math in the bath

All the pieces stayed together and floated around the tub until a big storm came, complete with huge waves and knocked it apart.  I love his imagination!  

math in the bath

After awhile, Luke also found that if you hold a piece of foam under the water, it will do a sort of swirly zig-zag as it makes its way back up to the surface.  Here’s a little 12 second video to show what it’s like, narrated by Luke:

He had fun doing this over and over!  It was neat to watch the foam meander it’s way up to the surface again!

I’ve found that by setting up a learning environment and then just letting him explore it, he will often try more things willingly and come up with some really interesting ideas and conclusions all on his own, than if I were to guide the activity.  When appropriate, I do throw in a little guidance or suggestions here and there, but it’s just amazing how all the learning goals I want to accomplish with him will usually happen with very little effort on my part.  It’s hands-on learning at it’s best, and he thinks he’s just playing!!!

Extension Ideas:
Here are two ways to reuse these math bath materials for future learning!  These activities would work best in a shower since there is more wall space for sticking the foam, but could be adapted for a bath.

1) Add foam craft sticks so the kids can count out the right number of sticks for each number.  Depending on your child’s level, you might start with only 1-5.

math in the bath

2) Add foam craft sticks so the kids can practice making tally marks to go with each number.

math in the bath

Fun for all Ages:
While you may think this activity is only for littles, try it with your elementary kids, too.  I have to admit that after our last Wash & Learn post on building letters, my husband and I quite enjoyed “building” messages to each other, too.  It was fun to walk into the bathroom to see if any new notes or pictures had been left for me! 🙂  

math in the bath

Now be sure to head over to Bath Activities for Kids to read about her math bath activity!

Other Posts in the Wash & Learn Series
Letter-Building Alpha-Bath by In Lieu of Preschool
Alphabet Bath Time Fun by Growing a Jeweled Rose
& check back next Monday for a new Wash & Learn collaboration!!

Other Themed Bath & Shower Posts on In Lieu of Preschool:
Halloween Shower Art
Sensory Spider Shower

Bath and shower activities should be closely supervised by an adult at all times.  None of the products used in this post stained our tub or shower walls in any way, but please test before use to ensure you will obtain the same results.  

This post may contain affiliate links.

Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Anonymous says:

    Love that he was so creative when he finished matching the numbers.
    Come visit the leaves in the yard at toddlersthroughpreschool.com


  • Anonymous says:

    I haven’t looked for foam craft sticks before? Where might I find them? I’m sure I could also just cut out some foam strips.-Emily

    • I found them at Michaels (a craft store). They were on the aisle with the other foam cut-out shapes. I just did a quick search for foam craft sticks on Amazon, and found a bunch listed there, too! You could definitely cut your own if you can’t find them for sale. 🙂

  • I LOVE this! I have a stack of foam sheets I’ve been wanting to use up (I bought them to use in my Cricut for another activity, but it didn’t work), and this is a great idea! My son is really into counting and numbers right now. I can’t wait to do this for bath time tonight!

  • gina says:

    Do you have a brand you recommend? I found some foam sheets and the color bled into the water when I tried it (not good).

    • Genny Upton says:

      That’s no good, Gina!! I think all my packs of craft foam are opened already, so I’m not certain what brand they are. I’ve bought all my packs from Michael’s and never had any issues with any of them except sometimes purple. If we use purple, I just make sure to remove it soon after we use it because it will leave color behind if left too long, but never any color bleed into the water…

    • Genny Upton says:

      Oh, I remembered I took a photo of our craft sheets for one of the posts! http://www.inlieuofpreschool.com/wash-learn-letter-building-alpha-bath/ It shows two of the packs of foam which are Creatology brand. I don’t know if that’s the brand we always use, but since I always buy it from the same store, it’s likely! What brand did you use?? I’d love to add a note into the post as a warning for others. 🙂

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