How to Teach Children to Count- Teaching Explicitly
In this post I will explore how to teach children to count objects. Children need to be explicitly taught the rules for counting. These can be modelled for them by an adult or an older, more experienced ‘expert child’ such as an older sibling or classmate. Thompson (1995) discusses that having a puppet purposefully make mistakes when counting, can be a great way to get children to discuss how to count correctly. I’ve used this many times in teaching and have found that it works really well. It gives children the opportunity to explain (reiterate) the rules of counting to one another. Putting it in their own words and teaching others how to count helps them learn to do it even better. They can then continue to practice by using activities like those below.
There are certain mistakes or misconceptions that children often make when learning to count. For example, they may move several objects and then just count them as one. They may also count several numbers but just move one object. Children will sometimes count numbers in the wrong order or forget to say numbers. They may also add an extra number on the end after they finish counting (e.g. count 5 objects and say they have 6), or re-count some objects again. For this reason it can help to have them move the objects as they count (Thompson, 1995). Ultimately, children need to understand that they need to count one number for one object. This goes hand-in-hand with understanding that the number 4 means that there are 4 objects in a set.
How to Teach Children to Count – Autumn Activity
These autumn counting activities are designed to help children learn how to properly count a set of objects. Have them practice counting out a set of leaves or other objects that will match a numeral. This teaches them the cardinal aspect of numbers. Children can also practice identifying a numeral to match the value of a set of objects. They need lots of practice counting out objects one at a time, which will help them to understand the need to count one number for one object.
This is a slightly harder skill than just counting the number of objects in a whole group, as the children won’t just need to be able to count the number of objects in the group. Instead, they will need to count out a specific number of leaves/objects from a larger group to match the numeral. If they find this difficult you can make it easier using numicon to support them. See my post on Counting with Numicon (Autumn).
There are different ways you can set this activity up. The children can be given a selection of numbers and objects to choose from. They can match the numbers with the correct number of objects. My son also enjoys counting objects and sticking them in play dough to match the number.
What you need
- Number rocks or other numerals
- Autumn objects to count such as acorns, leaves, horse chestnuts, mini pinecones, etc.
- Play dough (optional)
Questions to ask
- How many do you have?
- Can you match the number?
- What number is that?
- Can you count out that many leaves/nuts?
- How many will you have if you have one more? One less?
What they get from it
This is a great opportunity for children to get to play with numbers/numerals and practice counting objects. By observing children playing with and counting objects you will see the types of mistakes they are making. Then you can model or show them how to count, and talk to them about the ‘rules’ of counting.
Take it further
When children are confident counting out a group of objects from a larger set, they can then move on to finding the number that is one -more or one – less. one more or one less. As with other counting activities, it is very important that children are given the opportunity to use objects to help them count or to find out which number is one-more or one- less. Also see my Autumn Activity post for other autumn themed learning activities.
Thompson, I. (1995). ‘Count it Out” and “Out for the Count”. Child Education. (You can access this article at https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/51711064/count-it-out-out-for-the-count-ianthompsonpidslpipexcom)