Resources mentioned in this episode:

How Children Learn Number Concepts: A Guide to the Critical Learning Phases by Kathy Richardson

Register for The Power of Counting webinar

Join the waitlist for the Counting on Number Sense course


Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 92.  Today we are looking at The Power of Counting.

All of my work has been on helping teachers move kids out of the counting stages by building their number sense.  I don’t say counting is bad, but I think an unintentional residue was that people thought we shouldn’t have kids counting.

There is a time and place for counting.  All kids should be counting.  Anytime kids move into new groups of numbers they should first be counting in order to help them fully understand the numbers.  For example, how many of you ever learned to count fractions?  I know I didn’t.  I was just expected to operate with fractions.  But that is why my fraction sense is so weak.  I didn’t get the foundation laid for fractions by getting to count and make sense of them first before I had to do math operations with fractions.

The same is true for our early learners.  Even though it seems so easy, it’s just numbers 0-20!  But kids need to count.

Counting is so much more than just memorizing the number names.  In fact, have you ever stopped and asked a child why we count?  Do they know the purpose of counting?

On page 3 of the book How Children Learn Number Concepts: A Guide to the Critical Learning Phases by Kathy Richardson, she writes

“Counting is more than reciting a rote sequence and recognizing numerals.  Counting is finding out ‘how many.’  Often, parents and teachers are more focused on how high a child can go in saying the counting sequence than on the number of objects the child can actually count.  Because children can learn the language and patterns of counting long before they understand what counting is all about, it is assumed that a child knows how to use counting to determine the number of objects.”

She goes on to say

“Children grapple with many complex ideas far beyond ‘saying their numbers’ and getting the right answer.  They must develop an understanding of how numbers work and learn the meanings of the quantities they are working with.  Children need to learn to tell when an answer is reasonable or not reasonable, and to be consistent and accurate when counting.  They need to see relationships between numbers and use these relationships to find out about other numbers.

Most of all, children need to believe that numbers make sense and that they can make sense of them.”

The book How Children Learn Number Concepts has information about helping kids in all stages of numbers.  From learning to count all the way through helping them understand multiplication & division.  So I highly recommend you get the book so you can see the progression of how kids develop their ideas around numbers throughout elementary.

However, if you work with PreK or K kiddos, the majority of your work with them is counting and helping them see how counting can help them solve mathematical problems.  As Kathy says in the book, “counting is a complex concept” and that is why I’ve teamed up with Sue Looney to offer a free webinar about The Power of Counting.  

Sue has a whole course about helping kids build a solid foundation in math by helping them with all that complexity around counting.  The course will be opening up for registration soon here at Build Math Minds, but before that opens we are hosting this free webinar with Sue.

In the webinar you will learn how to help kids see the purpose of counting.  The power of looking at and investigating patterns when you are counting and how counting can help even those little learners become powerful problem solvers.

Go directly to to get registered.  The webinars are live and happening only on May 1st and 2nd so head over to get registered now.  There will be a limited-time replay sent out to people who register if you can’t make it. 

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.