Teaching Children To Count

The ability to count and work with numbers is a basic math skill for children when beginning school. By working with your child on some fun and engaging activities, you can help him gain important skills in this area.

Counting to 20

Counting from 1 to 20 requires rote memorization. If your child is not yet able to count from 1 to 20, you can help him gain this ability simply by counting with him at every opportunity.

To engage your child, count aloud as you or your child completes certain activities. For example, see who can put away more toys in 10 or 20 seconds, counting aloud together as you clean. Or, count how many steps it takes you to get from one room to another room or from your front door to the car, counting aloud with each step. The more your child hears the numbers being recited in the correct order, the more quickly he will learn the order for himself.

An essential tool in a preschool or kindergarten classroom for teaching children numeral order and counting is the number line.

number line

A number line visually reinforces the number symbols and demonstrates how numbers are ordered. You could purchase an inexpensive number line online or make one at home. Direct your child to look at the number line as he counts aloud, so he can gain familiarity with what each number looks like and also the order of numbers from 0 to 10.

As your child gains comfort with counting, try using some kindergarten math worksheets to help solidify his knowledge of numbers and the amounts they represent.

Counting on

Counting on involves being able to continue counting from any number, as opposed to restarting at 1 each time your child counts.

Counting on is an important skill when adding groups of items. For example, if you give a child six blocks and then you give him two more blocks, he can be more efficient by not recounting the first six blocks before counting the additional two blocks. As your child begins counting increasingly large numbers of items, counting on becomes increasingly critical.

To introduce and practice the skill of counting on, give your child a group of 7 to 12 blocks. Encourage him to touch each block one time as he counts aloud. As soon as he finishes counting, tell him to keep that number in his head. Then immediately place one or two additional blocks on the table slightly separated from the original group and tell him to continue counting. If your child begins to recount the original group, remind him that he does not need to recount because that amount did not change. 

Skip counting

The first skip counting children learn is how to count by 10s from 10 to 100. A printable 100s chart is a wonderful way to teach counting by 10s and to introduce the general idea of skip counting.

100s chart

Using this chart, show your child how all of the numbers in the right-hand column go from 10 to 100, counting by 10 at a time by “skipping” the other numbers in the row before jumping to the next line. Instruct your child to use his finger to move down the column to count by 10s as he reads each number.

Once your child is comfortable counting by 10s to 100, introduce counting by 2s. Begin by saying aloud “two” and ask him to skip the next number (three) by thinking it in his head and then say aloud the following number (four). Particularly for younger children, consider mouthing the skipped number or pointing to it on a number line as you skip it, so that your child can see you are thinking the skipped number but not saying it. With time, your child will learn to say the skipped number silently in his head without mouthing it or pointing to it on a chart.

Once your child has mastered counting by 2s, you can introduce counting by 5s. Since it is not easy for children to keep track of 4 skipped numbers in their head before saying aloud the fifth number, consider using a 100s chart when counting by 5s. Circle every 5th number on the chart and direct your child to use his finger to skip from one circled number to the next until he discovers the pattern and is comfortable continuing it without the chart.

What can you share with other parents?

What counting activities does your child seem to enjoy the most? Does he prefer counting piles of objects or does he like using a number line to count and skip count? What simple ways have you incorporated counting in your everyday routine?

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