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Learning their 1,2,3’s With Counting Bags

Have you marveled at the counting of a young child? Have you listened carefully as a child makes the leap from counting by 1s to 5s or 10s? Do you ever think to yourself, wow, that is a way of organizing numbers I wouldn’t have considered? As the Lower Division Head I am fortunate enough to travel throughout classrooms every day and frequently have the chance to watch children problem-solve, count, and grapple with numbers. Beginning in Pre-K, children are working on counting strategies (see video link below). They initially develop rote counting and move towards demonstrating their counting skills by counting objects. In Kindergarten, teachers introduce “Counting Bags” an activity that is revisited again in Grades I and II. Below are the skills that are addressed in the activity and the questions that teachers are asking to promote deeper thinking. Next time you participate in a math morning listen to how your child is counting, ask about their strategies for organizing objects and consider if it would be possible to count the objects another way. Counting might appear to be a simple task but it is actually quite complex and involves interplay between a number of skills and concepts.

Pre-K Video


In Kindergarten, students are using counting bags to build an understanding of numbers above 10 and to think about the “teen” numbers.

Skills that are highlighted in counting activities.

  • Rote Counting: Students need to know the number names and their order by rote; they learn this sequence-both forward and backward. Students need to use numbers in meaningful ways in order to build an understanding of quantity and number relationships.
  • One-to-One Correspondence: To count accurately, a student must know that one number name stands for one object that is being counted. One-to-one correspondence develops over time.
  • Conservation: Conservation of number involves understanding that three is ALWAYS three, whether it is three objects together, three objects spread apart, or some other formation. Being able to conserve quantity is NOT a skill that can be taught; it is a cognitive process that develops as children grow.

Questions that teachers are asking their students:
How did you count these?
How many did you find?
How do you know that is how many there are?

In Grade I, students are using counting bags to count and keep track of larger numbers. They are beginning to understand the magnitude of numbers and the relationships between and among numbers.

Skills that are highlighted in counting activities.

  • Keeping Track: Another important part of counting accurately is being able to keep track of what has already been counted and what remains to be counted.
  • Conservation: Conservation of number involves understanding that three is ALWAYS three, whether it is three objects together, three objects spread apart, or some other formation. Being able to conserve quantity is NOT a skill that can be taught; it is a cognitive process that develops as children grow.
  • Counting by Groups: Counting a set of objects by equal groups such as 2s, requires that each of the steps mentioned above happen again, at a different level. Lots of students can recite, “two, four, six,…” but they need to realize that one number in this count represents TWO objects, and that each time they say a number they are adding another group of two to their count. Keeping track while counting by groups becomes a more complex task as well.

Questions that children are being asked:
How did you count these?
How many did you find?
How do you know that is how many there are?
Can you count this a different way?

In Grade II, students use counting bags to think about whether there are enough items for the class. In this activity they are pondering if they have enough, if not how many more do they need, or if there are extra how many extra, and possibly are there enough for everyone in the class to have two items?

Skills that are highlighted in counting activities.

  • Keeping Track: Another important part of counting accurately is being able to keep track of what has already been counted and what remains to be counted.
  • Conservation: Conservation of number involves understanding that three is ALWAYS three, whether it is three objects together, three objects spread apart, or some other formation. Being able to conserve quantity is NOT a skill that can be taught; it is a cognitive process that develops as children grow.
  • Counting by Groups: Counting a set of objects by equal groups such as 2s, requires that each of the steps mentioned above happen again, at a different level. Lots of students can recite, “two, four, six,…” but they need to realize that one number in this count represents TWO objects, and that each time they say a number they are adding another group of two to their count. Keeping track while counting by groups becomes a more complex task as well.

Questions that children are being asked:
How did count these?
How many did you find?
How did you make a set that had the same number?
Does each group you made have the same number? How do you know?

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in learning more about counting, click here.