Ocean Shapes and Numbers: How to infuse math into summer reading!

Child watching Jelly fish cam while learning about ocean math

Hello, Friends!

When you think about time spent by a bright blue sea, you might daydream about a cool ocean breeze, playtime in the surf, tide pools exploration, or sand castles! But that vast expanse of water is also filled with shapes and numbers. Here are THREE fun and easy ways to bring those math concepts into our gorgeous ocean mural. This all part of our celebration of this year’s summer reading theme: Oceans of Possibilities! Let’s dive in!

Shell Counting for Preschoolers

Grab a box of small pasta shells.

Next, write each number 0-10 on the beach. We used gold glitter glue for a glistening sand look!

Finally, have your preschooler count out how many shells go with each number and glue them to the beach. Later, preschools can use their fingers to trace the puffy paint outline of the number as a pre-writing activity!

Another fun way to add depth to this project is looking at real seas shells and talking about their different shapes and hunting for patterns like spirals. If you live near a shell strewn beach, going on a shell hunt and sorting shells by size or type is another way to enrich beach math! Also, take me with you : )

Octopus Math


Construction paper, Glue Stick, Finger or other non toxic paint, markers, and paper plate.


First, take your paper plate and cut it in half. This is such a great time to talk about things like symmetry, halves and wholes, circles, etc. It doesn’t have to be a lesson, but working these concepts into casual crafting conversation builds math vocabulary and a foundation for more concrete concepts as those brains develop and grow.

Next, paint the plate halves to make the body of the jelly fish. To celebrate and learn about jellyfish while painting, have a jelly fish cam on in the background!

Now, it’s time to make the tentacles. Cut long strips out of your construction paper. Double or triple their length by pasting strips together. Then, once the glue dries, fold them like an accordion.

This is great for little’s hand eye coordination and fine motor control.

Next we added a shape to the bottom of each tentacle and numbered them one through eight. This offered a great chance to talk about shapes and numbers in nature.

Lastly, glue the paper  tentacles to body, then glue the plate halves together to make a paper plate sandwich. This makes your art 3-dimensional and hides where the tentacles attach to the body. To display, either glue this to your ocean or hang it from ceiling. Fun!

Shape Puzzle Challenge

Learning to look for geometry in art can help with geometry concepts, but ALSO with how to draw. Just like our submarine is made up of three ovals, we can break down an object that we are trying to draw into a series of workable shapes.  To bring home this STEAM concept, try a shape challenge for your young readers!

INSTRUCTIONS: Pre-determine what you are making. Ideas: anchor, sand castle, lighthouse, beach ball, sail boat, surf board, etc. Grownups or older children cut out the shapes that will become the puzzle pieces. Example. A crescent, rectangle and circle are puzzle pieces that come together to make an anchor. Squares, triangles, arches, rectangles can become sand castles, etc.

Once you’ve cut your puzzle pieces together, set them out for your littles to work with. Give fun hints. The point is not that they solve it, but just that they see that shapes can come together to make something new!

This develops early problem solving skills. Once the puzzle is complete, add it to the mural.

For our sand castle, we added a tactile sensory dimension by using sand paper. For ocean themed books that directly weave math into narrative, check out our summer reading recommendations hereDon’t forget to add the books you are reading to our bookish sea snake!

Courage Like Kate Cover Reveal

Before we go, I’m so EXCITED to remind you that I have a book coming out in just one month…an absolutely stunning tale of a little girls quest to keep a lighthouse and save lives. The best part is… it’s a TRUE STORY! COURAGE LIKE KATE: The True Story of a Girl Lighthouse Keeper is available for pre-order right now and will be in your mailbox on August 16th! This is the book of my heart and you’ll discover why when you find out about courage it took a young girl to become a lighthouse keeper in the 1800’s. Plus, Emily Sutton’s illustrations are to die for!

NEXT iN this series, we’ll focus our crafty skills on whales and sea turtles!

Happy Crafting and Reading!








Anna Crowley Redding is a mom and stepmom to FIVE wonderful kids and the author of six books for young readers with four more on the way! You can check out more information on her books and support her writing by clicking here.


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