Let’s get counting!

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!

More Random Acts of Math

This group loves to count. They count rocks on the play ground, the largest arm-load of walnuts and the number of days left until Halloween.  Without any prompting from us, snack-time has become the most common opportunity to practice one-to-one correspondence.  The counting strategies range from lining items up, counting-as-you-eat, removing one item from a bag at a time and pile counting.  Pile counting doesn’t usually end up the true total number of items, but making this mistake is part of the learning process.


They may hear if I tell them, they will know if they discover it.




One to One Correspondence


In Pre-K, we practice math skills on a daily basis. This could include anything from building with blocks, sorting buttons or sea shells, or playing strategy games such as checkers. Last week, we spent some time working on one to one correspondence or the ability to match one number to one item.

The students were given a game board with a picture of one astronaut in each square. They then were asked to roll a die and count the number of dots that appeared on the top. Using that number, the students placed a bingo dot on the correct number of astronauts while remembering that each astronaut can only have one dot. On their next turn, the students moved down a row and completed the same task. Once each row on their board was used, the students were asked which row had the most/least amount of dots.

Practicing one to one correspondence helps children solidify their ability to count a group of items. Each object must be matched with just one number. It is important that the student takes their time while touching/counting each object or they may end up with the incorrect number. This skill takes time and practice, but once it is mastered, the child can move on to more difficult math skills.

Mystery Project 101

Last week we began our first “Mystery Project”.  You might have noticed it penciled into the weekly specials schedule.  The basic premise of Mystery Project was inspired by TLC Lessons I used many years ago in Kindergarten.  This type of lesson is called a “directed art lesson”, but I would never call it an art project.  I would call it a “following directions math lesson”.  In my mind, an art project should be a creative expression of a person’s mood, thoughts, and ideas.  Instead, Mystery Projects have specific directions for completion and practice targeted skills.  I no longer use the designs and lessons created by the TLC group, but have integrated some of their ideas for introducing scissor and folding techniques in my plan.

The Mystery Project you see on the right was created using basic shapes.  Each child had a brown rectangle, a white rectangle, a large blue rectangle, and a black square.  The children had to listen carefully to see which piece to use and whether to hold it “like a window” (horizontally) or “like a door” (vertically).  We did talk about the correct mathematical terms, so if they start laying on the floor and talking about horizontal, don’t be too surprised.

The children also had to practice patience when learning how to cut the shapes.  When doing Mystery Projects, we often want our rectangles and squares to become ovals and circles.  For children who have had lots of experience cutting, their first plan is to begin trimming around and around and around the outside edge until they have a teeny, tiny ovoid.  I teach them a different method.  The first step is to use your scissors to cut off all of the corners.  Next, you take itty bitty bites with your scissors to cut off all of the pointy parts.  This gently rounds your shapes while remaining close to the original size of the rectangle/circle.  It is also important to address the fact that sometimes we accidentally cut off too much.  No Biggie! Just snip off the newly formed pointy parts.

A few days after our pictures were completed, we moved on to the manipulative portion of the mathematics activity.  This part of Mystery Project was inspired by my experiences with Problem Solving with Story Boxes.  In this instance, we are using our “math mat” to tell the story of some bears and their interactions with a cave and a child.  I begin the lesson by telling the children a story that they can “act out” on their mat.

Once upon a time there were three bears in the cave.  Then, four bears came and stood on top of the cave.  How many bears were there all together?

For this story, we used rocks to represent bears.  Mrs. Pless and I were looking at a few different skills as we watched how the children approached this problem.  We observed an understanding of positional words, comfort with one to one correspondence when counting, and an understanding of combining sets.  Most of these skills we do not expect to see fully developed at this time, but this gives us a chance to both differentiate for those who are ready and to support those who are at the beginning of their mathematical journey.

As a final practice, the children then join with a partner and play “My Turn, Your Turn”.  Each student invents a new math story for their friend to act out using their mat.  This gives us an even better concept of how well the children understood the activity.