Teaching Kids How to Count

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  • 0:03 Learning to Count
  • 0:27 Stable Order
  • 0:57 One-to-One Correspondence
  • 1:57 Cardinality
  • 2:45 Order Irrelevance
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Allyn Torres

Allyn has taught high school chemistry, and has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

In this lesson, discover how children learn to count. The stages of stable order, one-to-one correspondence, cardinality, and order irrelevance will be discussed, and instructional strategies for how to teach each will also be covered.

Learning to Count

There are three kinds of people in this world: those who can count and those who can't. Corny jokes aside, counting is a critical skill that kids need to learn at a young age. Let's learn about the different stages of counting that children master and instructional strategies that can be implemented at each stage.

Stable Order

Stable order entails kids being able to recite numbers in their correct order. At this stage, children typically don't know what counting actually is, but they can verbally list numbers in their conventional sequencel like 1, 2, 3. Rhymes and songs can be useful in helping children learn the stable order of numbers. Games can also be used in which children are asked to match number words with their pictures.

One-to-One Correspondence

It's great when children can recite numbers in their correct order, and we've all seen relatives of small children clap and cheer when the child does so. However, in the one-to-one correspondence stage of counting, children must couple the ability to recite numbers with the act of counting actual objects. There are several strategies that can be used to teach children the principle of one-to-one correspondence.

Teachers and parents can make a counting game out of just about everything. Get kids to count the number of carrots on their plate or the number of socks in their drawer. One-to-one correspondence can be made easier by putting the objects to be counted in a straight line. Adults can also help children learn to count by having them count actions, such as claps or snaps of fingers. Children can also be taught to count by having them place counters on circles on an activity page.


When kids have mastered the concept of cardinality, they understand that when counting a set of objects, the number assigned to the set is the final number. They understand the purpose of counting is to know how many objects are present. For example, if a child is counting five pencils, he will recognize that once he gets to the last pencil, five is the number that he will use to identify the set.

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