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How to Count: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

In math, counting is one of the first skills you need in order to solve problems. Come and learn about real-life situations that require counting, strategies that you can use to learn to count and how to skip count.

Counting in Real Life

Have you ever looked at a jar of jelly beans and wondered how many were in there? In this situation, you will need to know how to count in order to find the exact number. In fact, there are many times when you will use your counting skills in your everyday life.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Almost every job requires you to count at some point in order to do the job well. If you become a doctor, you will have to be able to count to know how much medicine to give your patient. Chefs count the number of ingredients in a recipe, police officers count the number of miles people are going over the speed limit, and teachers count the number of correct answers in order to grade their students' work.

Counting happens outside of the workplace, too. For example, you will have to be able to count money when you are at the grocery store or at the bank. If you throw a party, you will need to count the number of guests so that you can prepare. There are many games that require you to count--when playing in a soccer match, for instance, you'll need to know how to count to keep track of points. Counting is everywhere!

How to Count

The most common way to count is to count forward by ones. If you start at zero, counting forward by ones looks like this:

0…1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10

Since numbers are infinite, meaning they have no end--you can count forever and ever!

Sometimes, you might have to count backward. For example, on New Year's Eve, people count backward during the countdown to midnight. If you are start at ten, counting backward by ones looks like this:

10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…0

Strategies for Learning to Count

There are many different strategies that you can use when learning to count. One helpful tool for beginners is a number line. You can use a number line to count forward or backward.


A number line can help you count forward and backward.
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Another popular strategy to use when learning to count is to use your fingers. Since you have ten fingers, you can count up to ten using this strategy. If you want to count beyond ten, you can start over or start counting your toes! Kids in Russia use their fingers to count by counting the tiny sections on their fingers, as seen in the picture below.


The finger counting strategy used in Russia
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