Counting Objects

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Counting objects is a much more difficult task. In order to count a number of objects the child must learn to:

  1. Coordinate the rote counting series with the act of pointing to objects.

  2. Consider each of the objects to be counted once and only once.

  3. Use a numberiI the counting series to describe each object with the understanding that the order of the objects is irrelevant while the order of numbers in the series must not be violated.

  4. Stop reciting after the last object has been described with a number

  5. Understand that the final number does not refer merely to the last object counted but to all of the objects submitted to the counting operation. When the fourth and final block is counted, the child is supposed to understand that he has counted four blocks.

The following exercises help define each of the conventions associated with object counting.

  1. Demonstrate object counting by using the children’s fingers. This demonstration runs contrary to the old-time arithmetic principle “Don’t count on your fingers.” However, the conventions about not counting an object twice and counting every object once are more easily learned if the children are provided with a dramatic means of checking their performance. Touching the appropriate finger provides this check. The children can feel whether or not they have touched a given finger before. (The statement of correction “You already counted that one: there fore has more meaning.) Equally important, fingers are easier to work with and less distracting than other physical objects. Also fingers are available and handy.

  2. Demonstrate finger counting. Instruct the children to extend all of the fingers on their  left hand. (Show them which hand they should work with). Identify the fingers. “This is a finger. This is a finger, This is a finger. These are fingers: say it.”

  3. Demonstrate the counting procedure, touching each finger as it is counted. “one, two, three, four, five.”

  4. Count them again in a different order (perhaps beginning with the thumb).

  5. Describe the operation. “I counted the fingers on this hand, What did I do?...I counted the fingers on this hand.”

  6. Introduce the question “how many?” and the appropriate answer. The children probably do not know that the answer to “How many?” is the name of one number, the last one in the series. To make this point, present the question and its answer as part of the counting operation. Have a child hold up three fingers. “I’m going to count these fingers. One, two, three. How many fingers?...Three fingers. How many fingers?...Three fingers. “The child may at first answer the question ”How many?” by counting “one, two, three.”

  7. Show that counting is not limited to fingers. Demonstrate by counting the children in their room, chalk marks on the chalkboard; windows in the room, and so forth. The idea to get across is that counting works for anything.

  8. Introduce the basic question answer pattern for counting.

  9. Have the children count a finger presentation. “Count these fingers.”

  10. After the children have counted (one, two, three, four,), ask the question “how many?:

  11. Introduce yes-no questions and the net statements. “did you count six fingers?...No, you did not count nine fingers. How many fingers did you count?...You counted four fingers. “This is a basic and important pattern. It must be learned thoroughly.

  12. Introduce the concept zero. The children will probably find this word difficult to pronounce. (The usual mistake is to call it something like “Jeero.”)

  13. Hold up one finger. “How many fingers are here?”

  14. Present a closed fist. “How many fingers are here now?,… I don’t see any. None. And call that zero.”

  15. Define the concept further by asking “How many dogs are in this room?... Come on, look for them. Count them. There are no dogs in this rom. Zero dogs.” Repeat with different entities – old men with beards, airplanes, TV sets, Huckleberry Hounds, etc.

  16. Inject an occasional nonzero question so that the children do not get in the habit of answering without looking. “How many chalkboards are in this room?...One.”

Ask Dr. Susan