When young children first begin their exploration with counting, they often try to count objects in a group or pile but quickly lose track of which items they have already counted. Today, during morning meeting, we spent some time finding different strategies that may help our little mathematicians count using one to one correspondence. Each student was given a small handful of rocks and was asked to figured out how many they received. After everyone had ample time to count their rocks, we went around the circle and ask each child what strategy they used when counting.
Many of the children put their rocks into a straight line before counting. This simple act helps to organize the materials in a fashion that ensures that the child will only count one rock at a time. One child used a strategy that involved picking up a rock from the pile, placing that rock in their opposite hand, and then putting the rock down in a separate pile. Not only is this child using a common strategy of moving one item away at a time, but they also practicing using their working memory by adding the extra step of switching hands before placing the rock in the new pile. Some students do a combination of many strategies such as moving the rock away and then placing it in a line or vice versa.
Each of these strategies provide the student with an efficient way to organize their materials so that they can focus on the act of counting each item only once. If you happen to notice your child trying to count objects that are in a pile, suggest trying one of the strategies above and see if it makes a difference!