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Goal 9 – Learning Standard B

by Early Math Counts

Demonstrate an understanding of location and ordinal position, using appropriate vocabulary.


9.B.ECa Show understanding of location and ordinal position

9.B.ECb Use appropriate vocabulary for identifying location  and ordinal position.

Example Performance Descriptors

Respond appropriately to request to place an object somewhere in space in relation to other objects (i.e., put doll in front of pillow; place shoes under the table).

Use appropriate vocabulary for location and ordinal position during play activities (e.g., can demonstrate concepts such as near and far, over and under).

Respond to questions about ordinal position of an object (e.g., respond correctly to questions like “who is first in line?” or “which car came in third?”)


Many months ago when I was thinking about activities that would support early math skill benchmarks, I tried really hard to consider ways we use ordinal numbers rather than cardinal numbers with young children.

The most obvious to me was about lining up (which you can see above is one of the Example Performance Descriptors).  It is clear to children that being the “Line Leader” means that you are first in line, especially if the adult uses that vocabulary with the children. (“Today, Joey is first because he is the Line Leader.  Tomorrow, someone else will have a turn to be first in line).  This is one of those examples that works perfectly with the egocentric child because it plays right into their development (they really like being FIRST).

It is equally obvious that someone is also last in line.  Often the “Light Marshall” is last in line as it is his responsibility to turn off the lights when leaving the room.  This job softens the blow of ending up last in line as sometimes that also means last to pick a toy on the playground or the most coveted swing.

The in-between ordinal numbers are harder.  Being third or fourth or fifth means that children are translating the cardinal numbers into ordinal numbers which is far more complicated to do.  If your group is small, let’s say less than 8 children, you could create small number cards, numbered 1-8.  When taking turns, you might pass these out to the children and have them line up in order.  Once in line, they could begin making the translation between the number on the card (4) and being fourth in line.  With practice, the children will become more familiar with this vocabulary.

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