# Posts tagged teaching counting

## No Manipulatives Days

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These have been our math manipulatives for the last couple of weeks. Here they are lined up from largest to smallest.

We usually use a lot of manipulatives with my son. But not this week. It was interesting to see how a 5-year old deals with something very abstract, such as numbers.

Last week, while grocery shopping, I asked him what was bigger, 8 or 14. Without hesitation he responded that 14 was bigger. Distractedly, I asked him why did he think so. The answer was “14 is bigger because I can count to 8, but I can’t count to 14″. The reasoning sounded both unexpected and logical to me.

This week started with my son asking me to write down a story he made up about his collection of toy garbage trucks. It started with

At first Mark had 0 garbage trucks. Then he found out about them, started watching videos about them. Then he had 1 garbage truck. Then he had 2 garbage trucks because he got a gift from a store. Then he had 3 garbage trucks…

on and on it went like this until he got to 7 because that’s how many trucks are in his collection. So it was basically a counting story.

Then today he wanted to write down the same story again, but I approached it differently. Instead of writing it down, I gave him a pencil and paper and we worked out some basic equations:

0+1 = 1

1+1 = 2

2+1 = 3

3+1 = 4

4+ 3= 7

(because he found 3 trucks at a garage sale all in one day)

After he was done writing it all down, he reviewed his work, then looked at me with a puzzled expression and asked “I don’t understand, Mom. Where are all the words?” Which gave me a chance to explain a bit about how equations can tell a story. He seemed to be happy to discover a way of writing things down in as few signs as possible.

Both stories seem trivial when I re-tell them. But when they happened, I was reminded of how abstract the concept of numbers and manipulating with numbers (as opposed to quantities) can be for a child. And for me, as an adult, it is a difficult one to relate to. It’s been a while since I was 5 years old. I simply don’t remember myself not knowing numbers. Do you?

## Teach Your Child to Count

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Does this look like a lot of spacecrafts to you? This is just a small part of my son’s collection. Sure does come in handy when it’s time to learn counting.

I am an anxious mom. There, I’ve said it! I fret a whole lot about my child, including whether he is learning everything he is supposed to learn. Sometimes (ok, frequently), I worry unnecessarily and prematurely. One such worry is was over the whole counting to 10 skill.

We do a lot of math, but the only counting we do is when a) we count actual objects or b) we play hide-and-seek. In both cases, we hardly ever go all the way to 10. And honestly, I really dislike anything that has to do with rot learning, including counting and alphabet songs. So we don’t do any of that. Yet ability to count to 10 is one of skills identified on the kindergarten readiness checklist.

I know I’m not the only parent out there with this problem. In fact, in one of the Moebius Noodles courses we had a parent ask this exact question:

How can I get my child to remember numbers without just forcing him to count over and over?

To begin with, singing the number song does very little for mathematical understanding of numbers. Mathematically interesting things happen when you work with quantities and lengths. For example, one of the games we played in the course was to find objects that represent quantities, i.e. 18-wheeler truck!

But the biggest thing that will help to understand past ten is actually the notion of the UNIT. This is something best explored with visual, hands-on ideas. Incorporating math into something children love doing makes teaching them counting easy and even effortless.

My son is totally into space exploration. Fortunately, many rockets and space probes we read about are numbered sequentially (think Apollo missions or Mariner space probes). So he lines up all his make-believe rockets or just cardboard boxes, numbering them sequentially, as he readies them for launch.

A related question that was also asked in the Moebius Noodles course is

How old should the child be to understand counting, to make sense of it?

How old was your child when you first introduced counting (and not just number songs)? What were some (if any) difficulties you encountered? Please share your experience.

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