A few weeks ago, I was walking across campus and found myself counting the number of steps it had taken me to get from our office to the campus bookstore. After realizing what I had unconsciously done, I purposely counted my steps on my return trip to check for accuracy and, to my surprise, I was off by four. I was perturbed. How could it have taken me four additional steps to get back? Was my gait off? Did I miscount? Did I veer slightly off my original path? What happened? Rather than go out again and recount (the temperature in Fresno was over 100 degrees that day), I just sat and wondered.
Why had I counted my steps? I did not leave the office intending to count, it just happened. I was counting for the sake of counting. I often find myself counting things for no reason, the number of white vehicles that I pass on the freeway, the number of trees on the street, the number of red lights I had to sit through, the number of people at bus stops, the number of items in my shopping cart. I literally count a lot of things for no real reason, which reminded me of a comment made by Dr. Les Steffe during his visit to the AIMS Center this past Fall, when he said, “Students need to be presented with many opportunities to count. Have them count anything and everything.”
Whether children are counting the number of other children in line, how many books in the library, the number of teddy bear counters at a center, or prepared counting collections (with a variety of materials), it’s important for us (the adults) to pay attention to how they are engaging in their counting. Here are three questions to ask yourself to guide your observations.
- When counting by rote (verbal counting), are they simply learning the list of numbers, to ten or twenty? Does it sound like they are singing the ABC’s just with numbers? Is it an arbitrary list of numbers? Is it a sequential number word sequence?
- When counting small collections are they able to subitize (recognize small sets of objects without counting)? If so are they moving from being a perceptual subitizer to a conceptual one? (can you link to my 2nd, 3rd, & 4th blogs:
- When given objects to count, are students able to touch and count objects that have been organized in a row? Do they have one-to-one correspondence? Do they understand that the last number stated tells “how many” (cardinality)? Are they beginning to compare quantities (more than, less than)?
Reflecting on these questions can help adults think more deeply about children’s counting and can assist in providing appropriate counting experiences for your young child.
In closing, I want to share my favorite video clip of a young boy counting, as it serves as a great reminder that children should count anything and everything!