Counter (Small Numbers)

Accurately counts objects in a line to 5 and answers the “how many” question with the last number counted, understanding that this represents the total number of objects (the cardinal principle).




You may see this:

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Other Examples:

  • A child is asked “How many blocks do we have?” The child sees four blocks, points to each while counting... "1, 2, 3, 4”, then exclaims “Four!" in answer to the question.

Help your student become a(n) Counter (Small Numbers)

Activities and teaching strategies focus on the notion that in counting a set of objects, the last counting word tells how many there are in the set--that is, the cardinal number of the set. Gesture around the set while repeating the last number word (e.g., "1, 2, 3, 4, 5…[gesturing): FIVE!") and use subitizing to support cardinality in counting as in the activity "How Many in a Hand?"

Practice-based Research: Use the small group dynamic as a chance to assess how high and accurately each child can count. Are they fine on 1-to-1 correspondence?  Do they know the cardinal (“how many”) principle? That's the main accomplishment of this level!

Using numerals to label numbers, as well as representing collections with written symbols, are key steps toward mathematical abstraction.

Use any opportunity, especially Mr. Mixup activities, to discussvthe emotional aspect of making mistakes. Ask children, for example, “How do you think Mr. Mixup feels when he makes a mistake? How could we help him? We could tell him, ‘It is okay, everybody makes mistakes, and you can learn from them.’”

Some activities here also develop the important mathematical skills  of sorting and classifying. Research shows children need to classify, and here they do so for a reason, as they develop multiple math competencies simultaneously.

To recognize and write a numeral, children need to know its parts, how the parts fit together, and left and right. For example, 3 has two curves, one on top of the other, and the curves start on the left. Most children this age do not know left and right so the concepts have to be communicated in child-friendly, age-appropriate ways, such as temporarily referring to the “window side” of the board as the right or left, whichever is the case in your classroom.

Special Thanks To

Institute of Education Sciences
The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through grant numbers R305K050157, R305A120813, R305A110188, and R305A150243. to the University of Denver. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.