This week we would like to share a few of our favorite activities from one of our favorite subjects. . . . Math! The two of us really love to teach math and can be very competitive when it comes to solving math problems. We have found that one of the most powerful ways to help our students develop number sense is through counting. We try to provide our students with lots of experience with counting so that they can build a solid foundation for future experiences in math.
The purpose of counting collections is not only to provide students with the practice of oral counting, but also to provide them with opportunities to develop counting strategies, to strategically group objects, and to record their thinking. To begin counting collections we place a large pile of items on the table and without any further instruction we ask the students to begin counting their items. Most students will begin counting one by one with no strategy for grouping the items. We like to interrupt their counting after some time has passed. We will stop them to ask a silly question then tell them to continue counting. Many students will have forgotten where they were and have to start their counting over. This is a perfect time to discuss strategies for grouping items and how they will record their counting in their journals.
Students always find it exciting to begin counting a new collection in the classroom. We have collections of rubber bands, macaroni, beans, coins, keys, plastic bottle caps, and popsicle sticks, to name a few.
Counting journals are a quick and easy way for students to practice counting — and their counting goes far beyond just counting by 2s, 5s, or 10s. Counting journals can be used in ANY grade level. They challenge students to break away from conventional ways of counting. When you are first getting started, you will want to start simple. For instance, have students count by 5s to 100. As the year progresses, you might start having them count by 2s, but starting at the number 7, for instance. You can have them count by 11s or even halves. Do your students know what comes after 199? Have them count by 1s starting at 190 and see what happens. It is amazing what you find out about your students through this simple little activity. To extend this, you can have students come up to the board and share how they counted, or ask them to find a pattern and share with the class.
Be warned . . . this activity gets loud, and your class will be moving all over the place! This activity can be done individually, in pairs, or in table groups. First, you need to find a wonderful parent volunteer to die-cut shapes for each student (unless they do this as pairs or groups). Each student will get a circle, square, triangle, and rectangle. Feel free to add different ones or to try solids as well. Hole-punch the top and the bottom of each shape. On one side of the shape students will tally how many of that shape they found in the classroom. When they finish, they write, “I saw ___ circles.” Not only are they making tally marks, but they also have to be able to count and write that number. As a bonus they get to practice writing a sentence with a capital letter and ending it with a period. Once they finish, they can tie the shapes together with some yarn, and the mobiles are ready to hang.
This activity requires very little preparation and is great for reinforcing place value this time of year, when you are probably working through the hundreds and into the thousands place. Just get some 3" x 5" cards or cut-up sentence strips and write numbers on them. Put a pile of base-ten blocks on the table, and have kids take a card. The student has to use the base-ten blocks to build the number that is on the card they drew. This is a great time to ask those kids who prefer to grab ten ten-blocks to build the hundreds, or ten ones to build a ten, if there is a faster way to count/build that number. You can have your students pair-share their numbers and tell their partners which blocks they used to build it.
We love these activities because they are a fun way to teach counting and the students don’t even realize they are working. What are some fun ways you have for teaching how to count?