Purposeful Counting – Not Just Rote

Rote counting of skip-counting patterns is just the beginning. Counting needs to be purposeful and contextualized.

Give students a quick look at the image below and ask them to estimate how many and what made them think that.

Some students will make wild estimates, but some will make informed estimates based on subitizable groups.

Show the picture again

Ask the students to check their estimates. We will see who trusts the count, counts in 1s, counts on, counts in 2s or spots 5s. To find out more about trusting the count, click here!

Counting is being applied to objects and leads to a conversation about which method is quickest and why we need to skip (speed) count.

Don’t stop there, though. Think about the kind of questions that will provoke more purposeful counting and unitizing. For example:

“How many M&Ms” may lead to counting in 1s, 2s or looping/unitizing.

“How many muffins with 5 M&Ms on top can we make?” may lead to division, multiplication and remainder (= left over in the real world).

“What equal-sized groups could we top our muffins with?”

“So, what different number of muffins could we make with equal numbers of M&Ms on top?”

“What fraction of the M&Ms are red, yellow, …”

“In a bag of 96 M&Ms, how many of each colour do you think there might be? Explain your answer.”

And, of course, if you make your own picture, there just might be enough M&Ms to share at the ends of the session. Have a great week …. and stay safe.