I have avoided talking a lot about counting on this blog because I have not wanted to reinforce the idea that counting is the way that we do math with young children. In fact, I believe that counting will eventually be important, but it certainly isn’t where we start working with young children and math. So many other systems need to be in place before counting moves from being a simple memorization activity to a mathematical activity.
Remember, just because a child can say 1,2,3,4, does not mean he has any concepts of the algorithmic meaning of 1+1 = 2, and 2 + 1 = 3, and so on. Do not be confused by this. You might as well teach children to remember and recite, “dog, cat, horse, book,” which for pre operational children, is approximately the same thing.
However, there are ways that we can count with young children appropriately.
As we are looking at Bugs as our monthly theme, singing “The Ants Go Marching One-by-One” is an appropriate song that illustrates very clearly the processing of adding “1” to the previous number. I used to sing this with my class during group time. You ask, “Who wants to be the first ant?” and that child walks in a circle outside of the group. When you begin the second verse, the first child chooses another child, so they are now marching two-by-two and so on until all of the children are holding hands and marching. This is very visual way for children to see the counting process. (Counting on the calendar, although done everywhere, is not nearly as meaningful as you can’t see the days, they are arbitrary, and days and time are not very meaningful to young children.)
This video will teach you the lyrics and the tune.
Remember, it is the teacher’s job to ensure that everyone gets a turn and no one is left out. This is a much more democratic activity than “Duck, Duck, Goose” which I find to be nearly as cruel as “Musical Chairs”.