One, Two, Skip a Few

In this lesson, children will use skip counting by fives and tens to count large quantities of math manipulatives.

Lesson for:

(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:


Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers and number systems
  • Understand meanings of operations and how they relate to one another
  • Understand patterns, relations and functions

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Counting with understanding and recognizing “how many” in sets of objects
  • Understanding situations that entail multiplication and division, such as equal groupings of objects and sharing equally
  • Sorting, classifying and ordering objects by size, number and other properties

One, Two, Skip a Few

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Manipulatives (five different groups of anything that you have a lot of—blocks, snap cubes, pattern blocks, etc.)
  • Chart paper
  • Markers

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Pour out the different manipulatives into five different piles around the room. Put the blocks in one area, the snap cubes in another area and so on. Make sure the children have enough room to count the piles into smaller groups.
  2. Explain to the children that we have a lot of manipulatives and they are all dumped out of their containers and in piles all over the floor. Wonder out loud to yourself: “I wonder how many manipulatives we have? I wonder how many blocks we have? I wonder how many snap cubes we have?”
  3. Ask the children: “Who wants to count all of these for me?” Select some eager volunteers and have them begin counting. It should be a laborious process as they count one by one. Then ask: “Can anyone think of a quicker way to count all of these blocks? The snap cubes? And the other piles that we have around the room?” Write down the different ways the children come up with to count the blocks until they suggest counting by fives or tensModel how the children can group the blocks into smaller piles of fives and/or tens.
  4. Explain that the children will be dividing up into smaller groups and each group will count a pile of manipulatives and report back with their findings. Each person within the group will be working on making a pile until all of the manipulatives are used. Different groups can be counting by different numbers. Depending on ability, you could have one group counting by fives, another group counting by tens, another group counting by twos, and so on.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Divide the children up into groups and assign each group to a station with a pile of manipulatives. Allow all of the children to begin working at the same time.
  2. Walk around the room and monitor the groups. Once they have all of their manipulatives grouped into equal piles, model and remind the children about skip counting. You might want to provide some scrap paper to each group so that they can keep track of their sorted groups and write down their final totals.
  3. Many of the piles will not have the exact number of objects to be grouped into even piles and will have some left over. Explain to the children what to do with these “leftover” manipulatives at the end when they are counting up their final total.
  4. Bring the children back to the rug area. Have the children call out their totals one by one. Record the numbers on the chart paper and then let the children determine which pile has more or less. Re-order the totals from the least to the greatest.
  5. After the children clean up, go over the activity and remind the children that, when there are large amounts of things that need counting, a good way to make counting quicker is to use grouping and skip counting just like you did today.

Additional Extensions

  • Once the children have counted and totaled one pile of manipulatives, send them to a different pile of manipulatives to double check the total. Also, if the children grouped and skip counted by fives the first time, have them group and skip count by a different number (twos or tens) when they count the next pile.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Groups: Sets of items or objects (e.g.,“How many groups of blocks do you have?”)
  • Sort: Separating the items according to a given attribute (e.g.,“Let’s sort the blocks into equal groups of five.”)
  • Count: To identify the amount of something by number
  • Skip count: To count forward or backwards in multiples or intervals of a given number
  • Less: Not as many as
  • More than: A value that is higher or greater in number
  • Total: The complete amount of items counted

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Be having difficulty with one-to-one correspondence and sequential ordering
  • Be just starting to understand the concept of grouping and skip counting
Child care providers may:
  • Make smaller piles for the children to count (have a pile of 10 blocks that they can begin with and add more as they become more confident)
  • Provide a number line as a reference point for the children (provide visual cards that have two objects on them so that the children know what a group of two looks like. Provide visuals that support the children when they are grouping and counting their manipulatives.
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Have grasped the concept of skip counting
Child care providers may:
  • Reinforce this skill and provide additional practice by providing two different piles of manipulatives for the children to count (also, if the children grouped and skip counted by fives the first time, have them group and skip count by a different number when they are counting the second pile)

Suggested Books

  • One, Two, Skip A Few by Roberta Arenson (MA: Barefoot Books Ltd, 2000)
  • Quack & Count by Keith Baker (CA: Sandpiper, 2004)
  • Spunky Monkeys on Parade (Math Start 2) by Stuart J. Murphy (New York: HarperCollins, 1999)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

Play “Beanbag Toss.” Using sidewalk chalk, create a large, multicolored grid. Depending on the number you are focusing on, put the multiples of that number in the grid, in ascending order. Leave some of the squares blank.

70 65
50 55 60
45 40
30 35
25 20 15
5 10


Toss the beanbag. Wherever the beanbag lands, the children must hop to that number, only landing on squares with numbers and reciting the numbers that they land on. For example, if the beanbag lands on “55,” the child begins by hopping onto 5 and calling out “5.” Then he hops to the number 10 and calls out “10.”  The child does this until he/she reaches the number that has the beanbag: 55. If the beanbag lands on a blank square, the child tosses again. This can be done to reinforce skip counting by any number.

Web Resources

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