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Dr. Tisha Shipley has been in education for over 23 years. She has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, Gifted and Talented 3rd-6th Grades, Dr. Shipley was an elementary principal, a cheer coach, and was on...
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Building Math Concepts in the Housekeeping Center: Things to Try

Center time has just started in Miss Shipley’s Kindergarten classroom. In the housekeeping center the children are busy getting ready to open the “Class Store”. One boy is behind the register with play money and a calculator, two girls are wearing aprons which are the uniforms for the store, they are pricing and stocking the shelves with everyone’s favorite toy, brought from home. Two other children are customers waiting for the doors to open with a certain amount of money they have earned and they are ready to shop!

Background on the “Class Store”

The housekeeping center is an area that can be changed out frequently so that all areas of math development and learning outcomes are covered while new learning takes place and concepts are built upon.  For the “Class Store” children were asked to bring their favorite toy from home. A letter was sent home to the families and the toys were marked with the child’s name. Excitement builds each day with four phases incorporated which are detailed below and all children participating.

Children then get to take turns running the cash register (adding and subtracting, counting money, answering the telephone, calling out on the telephone-- recognizing numbers), stocking the shelves (writing numbers, recognizing numbers, organizing and sorting by groups of items) and buying their favorite items as a customer (money reasoning, counting, adding, subtracting, recognizing numbers etc).  The children are able to show ownership in the “Class Store” and this makes for a more engaging learning experience.

Why include a Housekeeping center in the classroom environment?

The housekeeping center is an area that children can relate too. Often times it has “play” objects that they have at home such as food, dress up clothes, telephones, household appliances, and furniture. It is an area that children can engage in almost anything and are able to use their imagination to build and create whatever they want. Many themes and subject areas including math can be reinforced in the housekeeping center. The housekeeping area is a very creative and imaginative area and children aren’t using that part of play very often anymore because of technology and games that give criteria and direction. Therefore, the housekeeping center is a place and time where children can imagine, dream and build experiences and use their creative energy.

There are many other things you can do throughout the day to reinforce mathematical learning such as using children’s literature that children can relate to, and cooking in the classroom which teaches concepts such as:  measuring, counting, one to one correspondence, addition, patterning, simple fractions and data collection. You can reference cooking and math books to use for these activities at the conclusion of this article.

Math skills in the housekeeping center

  • Learning, writing and recognizing numbers and number words
  • Technology
  • Representations or pictures
  • Addition/subtraction
  • Fractions
  • Sorting and organizing by color, number, size, shape
  • Money recognition and counting
  • Math vocabulary
  • Graphing
  • More or less
  • Patterning

Materials you will need for the “Class Store”

  • Phone (cell phone, cordless phone and an old motor phone)
  • Play money
  • Cash register
  • Labels
  • Shelves
  • Hand held scanners (pretend
  • Dress-up clothing
  • Name tags
  • Toys brought from home
  • Other objects that the housekeeping center may have already had in it (food, dishes, clothes etc).

How to Incorporate the “Class Store” into the Housekeeping Center

Incorporating mathematical learning into the housekeeping center is important as it provides the opportunity to practice and apply skills and strategies taught throughout the learning day. It also allows the teacher to authentically assess what children can do, understand, and communicate.  Children each learn at their own pace and developmental level. Centers help to differentiate a child’s mathematical ability.  To hold the child’s engagement and interest the center should be opened in phases.

Phase one:

On the first day of the “Class Store” housekeeping center Miss Shipley invites children to show what toy they chose from home and why.  Children have in-depth conversations about where they got the toy and who bought it for them. It may also be modeled on how to handle and care for other’s property. Children’s literature can be used to introduce the concept of the “Class Store” such as Tony Goes shopping written by Valerie Sheehan. Toys can then be sorted or graphed by color, shape, style and texture for extra math practice.

Phase two:

 On day two, the toys (props) are put into the “Class Store” housekeeping center for the children to play with and decide how the store may be set up. Children work together and also decide what part of the store they want to be responsible for (working, pricing, answering the phone, cash register etc). 

Phase three:

On day three of the “Class Store” after the concepts are taught that the children should be working on such as, number and money recognition and adding and subtracting other props such as play money, a cash register, shelves and paper to make signs are added. Rich conversations go on throughout the days and weeks about stores, how they make money, how people get paid to work, and about money and math concepts that they will use when they are working in the store.

Phase four:

The store is set up and you have a grand opening. Children take turns practicing math skills in the “Class Store”. It has been seen in research that when children show ownership, excitement and want to participate they become engaged in their learning and want to practice the skills that are being taught (Isbell, n.d). This is a great way to reinforce and assess what each child is learning.

Besides math concepts, Catherine states,  “Young children learn so much during center time — social interaction with both peers and adults, self-regulation of behavior, language development, time management, tons of age-appropriate academics, trying new things in a safe environment, etc” (2017).  Centers are the heart of an early childhood environment. Centers should be changed out frequently to meet the curriculum demands so that children are in authentic learning engagement. In the “Class Store” housekeeping center, the children are getting ready to shop, work and engage with math concepts that have them thinking about problem solving and real-world ideas and solutions. Teachers can do this by using real world applications that children can relate to from their own experiences and the world.  Children shop with their families, they buy things from the store, some families may own their own store, or work in a store that the child can relate to.  They can use their background knowledge and build on it by learning to run and buy from the “Class Store”.

“The Pizza Palace”

To continue math practice in the house keeping center the “Class Store” is changed into The “Pizza Palace”. Children are involved in making menus, hanging signs, getting the cash register ready, sorting money, organizing and sorting food, and finding clothing that is appropriate.  The phases of the Pizza Palace are the same as from the “Class Store”.  Changing the themes of the housekeeping center keeps the math concepts engaging.

Phase one:

Invite children to have rich conversations about their favorite restaurants (what they like to eat, where they like to eat, and how often they eat their favorite food). Read children’s literature, or your favorite book about pizza (example: Pete’s a Pizza written by William Steig). This is a good time to try different pizzas that you either make in the classroom or bring from home. Cooking in the classroom brings different math concepts that you can also teach children.   You can then graph each child’s favorite pizza and determine the classroom favorite.

Phase two:

Introduce the materials that will be in the Pizza Palace:

  1. Aprons/hats
  2. Food (depending on what you are doing real or fake) (pizza crust, toppings, sauce)
  3. Microwave or a pretend oven
  4. Tables and chairs
  5. Menus made by the children
  6. Hanging menus and signs made by the children
  7. Play money/cash register
  8. Cookbook
  9. Recipe cards

Discuss restaurants and what each one of the materials listed above is used for.  Allow children to play with the materials for the next few days. The idea is to get the children excited about the Pizza Palace.  The teacher should observe what skills and ideas they are bringing over from the “Class Store” and incorporate ideas from conversations or observations the teacher has with the students. The center should always be evolving.

Phase three:

Children begin making the menus and signs for the restaurant. Children are practicing writing numbers, letters and collaborating on what they want the restaurant to serve. They are preparing to open the restaurant. This may be easier as they had been involved with the “Class Store” already.

Phase four:

Have a grand opening of the “Pizza Palace”.  This may be a time when you have an actual pizza party in your classroom and invite the families. Have the children explain to them what the Pizza Palace is and the teacher should give background on math concepts that they are learning and practicing.

There are many ways to change out the housekeeping center to keep a math focus that allows children to practice, collaborate, foster independence, differentiate, and learn math concepts in a meaningful way.

Expanded Opportunities:

  • Lemonade  stand
  • Garage Sale
  • Grocery Store
  • Farmers Market
  • McDonalds (or any chain that they know about)
  • Bakery
  • Post Office
  • Sandwich shop
  • Take home Math Bags with money and items that children and families can practice buying from each other.

As you begin setting up your housekeeping center keep in mind what math concepts and strategies you will be teaching. These lessons should be added to all centers to reinforce concepts in a natural, developmentally appropriate and differentiated way for each student. When you get a child excited and have them show ownership in what they are doing, they will participate, engage and collaborate while learning in an authentic way.


Resources for you

Cooking with Children’s Literature

Children’s Literature that teaches Math Concepts



Catherine, M. (2017). Centers in Preschool {An Introduction}.



Isbell, R. (n.d). Small group Big Learning: Learning Centers.