Monday, August 13, 2012

One-to-One Counting With Marbles & Flashcards (Preschool Activity)

Last week we did some one-to-one counting with flashcards and color-coordinating pom poms.  Today's activity is mostly the same, but with one key difference: there's no "cheat" for counting the right amount of objects for each flashcard.

Counting with pom poms that match the color of the dots on the flashcards is a great introduction to one-to-one counting, but, in my opinion, it's not truly counting and reading the number on the card because the child can easily "cheat" by just treating it like a color-matching activity.  Red pom poms go with the red dots, green with green, and so on.  

In this version, the child doesn't have colors to fall back on, so it opens the activity up to real counting.  This is a great way to get a feel for how well your child is really counting on their own.  I think little activities like this that test your child's knowledge and skills are a great way to assess where they're at and where to go from there.  

This activity helps build the following skills:
  • number recognition
  • number order
  • one-to-one counting*
  • hand-eye coordination
  • focus/concentration

*Some of you may be wondering, "What on earth is one-to-one counting?"  Sorry for not explaining the term the first time I used it.  It's just a fancy way of saying that we count objects (saying "1, 2, 3...") out loud as we handle them one at a time.

In other words, it's picking up a marble, saying "1" and putting it down, picking up the next marble, saying "2" and putting it down, and so on and so forth for whatever you're counting.  While it may seem simple, this is an important skill for kids to master.  It's different from just being able to rattle off numbers in order.  It's being able to truly count out the things they encounter.

For this activity you'll need:

A serving tray with compartments

Ours is from the thrift store.  Trays like this that have a middle compartment and several compartments around the outside are great for this activity, but other trays could easily work well too.  If you have a tray similar to this, but with no middle compartment, just place the objects you're going to count in a cup or bowl.

Number Flashcards

Ours are the mini version of the printable Number Flashcards I sell in my shop.  (The mini version is included in the set.)  You can buy them HERE on their own or HERE in the variety pack (which is a better deal).

These flashcards are perfect for this activity because they have the dots under each number so the child can check their counting by counting the dots on the flashcards.  You can read more about why I'm nuts about these flashcards in my original post, The Anatomy of Great Math Flashcards.

Objects to count

I like using these flat marbles (the kind that they use in fish tanks and vases and stuff) because they're easy to handle and they don't roll around like regular marbles do.  Also, I like them because they all look the same and you can buy a whole bag of them for really cheap.  (Ours are from the dollar store.  Look for them in the isle with the craft and floral stuff.)

Set up:

First, set your tray up so the flashcards go in order.  Then put the objects to count (i.e. marbles) all together in the middle.

For beginners: Count out the objects ahead of time and make sure there are exactly the right amount for the activity.  This way they'll know they've counted everything correctly when they finish with the last number.

Make it more challenging: Have more objects available for counting than what they'll actually need for the activity.  Then they'll have to double check their work to make sure it's right.

Let's count!

Point to the first number and ask your child what number it is.  If they know what it is right away, great!  If not, have them count (or help them count) the dots on the flashcard to figure out what number it is.

Then count out that many objects and place them in the compartment one at a time.  Be sure your child counts the objects out loud as he/she places them in the compartment.

Once your child has counted out the correct number of objects, point to the number on the flashcard again and ask them what number it is.  Again, if they already know what number it is, great.  If not, count the dots under the number again to help them figure out what number it is.  Then (even if they just counted the dots to find out what number it is) count the dots on the flashcard.

Next, ask your child to count the marbles they just put in that compartment.  If the number of objects counted matches the number of dots counted, congratulate them!  "Five marbles, five dots!  Five!  Great job!"

If there are more or less objects than there should be, help them notice the discrepancy and re-count it, making sure they've counted out the correct number of objects.  Then count the dots on the flashcard and the objects in the compartment again to make sure it's the same number of each.

Working clockwise, repeat this same routine for each flashcard/compartment.

Hooray!  You've counted them all!

Then, starting at the first compartment again and working clockwise, have the child place each of the objects back in their dish, one at a time.

You can count the objects as you put them away, or if they're attention span is short, just focus on putting the objects away one at at time.

Try changing this activity by:

  • using different objects (beads, pom poms, pennies, buttons, etc.)
  • changing out the flashcards for different (and higher!) numbers
  • having more objects in the dish than what they'll actually need for counting
  • putting the numbers out of order
  • using numbers that aren't in numerical order (i.e. instead of 1, 2, 3, 4, use 3, 6, 12, 8)


Find more fun and easy preschool ideas on the Preschool page.  You can also find them by clicking on the Preschool button in the header.  Enjoy!   

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