Teaching Basic Counting Skills

Categories: Academics

You know what I really struggle to teach – counting? There is so much that goes into fully mastering this skill and so many ways to work on it. Also math is not my fav so I’m never really chomping at the bit to get into this one. But this skill is SO important. Counting leads to so many functional skills and increased independence! You kids have got to get this mastered asap! Here are some ways I like to work on counting:

‘Give Me’ Counting


I like to call this concept ‘give me’ counting. This is the type of counting we do on a daily basis. Your mom says, “hey give me three napkins.” Your teacher tells you, “grab five pencils.” You tell the starbucks barista “I will be needing three shots in that latte.” Our kids need to associate the quantity of a physical group of items with the verbal number. This is a hard skill to teach and it’s super easy to over prompt and think your student has mastered this concept.


I see teachers do this all the time: A well-meaning teacher says to her student, “Give me three pencils.” The student places one pencil at a time in the teachers hand and once the third pencil lands on her palm, the teacher grasps the group and says, “great – you did it!” Nope. Nope. Nope. No he didn’t do it. He just put pencils in your hand until you said stop. You need to provide a delay. Once that last pencil is in your hand – WAIT. Let your student signal to you when he is done. Errorless learning is key here. Provide hand over hand prompting and model that correct response over and over. Show your student how to signify that he is done counting. Maybe he puts his hands on the table or says, “all done” if he has verbal skills. Beware of over prompting!

Match Number to Quantity

We also need to work on matching a group of items to the written numeral. This is where many of our students tend to excel because there is no spoken language involved! Our kids struggle with comprehend verbal language so taking that out of the equation completely can make the skill a little bit easier to tackle. There are loads of ways to practice this skill – file folder activities, task boxes, worksheets! Just make sure that your little geniuses aren’t just memorizing the task! We need lots of different ways to practice this skill. {pics link to resources}





Receptive Id of Numerals

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 10.52.58 AM

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 10.49.12 AM

Since that language piece can be so tricky – it can be helpful to work on this skill in isolation. Just like we love building receptive language vocabularies with so many other concepts – we need to do this with numbers as well. This can be done very simply and easily made more challenging. Show your student a few numbers and say, “show me 3.” Start with a few numbers at a time. Take data. Rock your discrete trial expertise. And slowly but surely – your kiddos will master this concept! Grab this resource here: Basic Skills Unit.


Happy counting!



  1. Are these counting activities, like the book in your TpT store?

  2. Thank you thank you for bringing up the prompting aspect! That’s such a big thing with my counting task box. We’ve been working on “give me two” for a while now, and I realized early on that I was unintentionally giving him the right answer by closing my hand. I recently changed to “put two in the box” and that’s helped me a lot!

  3. do you have these available on your Tpt?

  4. ‘@AmyClausen that is exactly how I’ve been doing it too. Put X in the cup, bowl, ice cube tray, etc We have been really working on one-to-one correspondence and making sure we are touching each item as we count. I have many kids who touch faster than they count and vice versa.

  5. ‘@Carla I love the idea of an ice cube tray! I’ve been using the “really useful boxes” you can buy at office supply stores, but that’s a great idea too!

  6. I would love to purchase these activities. Can you direct me to where I can find them?

  7. Thanks so much Sasha! Can you pls explain “provide hand over hand prompting” ? I can’t understand exactly how to do this… Sorry for asking 🙂

  8. Great idea! I love using a box for teaching counting.

  9. Great suggestions!

  10. No worries! Ask away! Hand over hand prompting would be physically taking your child’s hand and counting out the items or handing the items over. So you are providing that physical prompt and showing by moving their hand exactly how to do the skill.

  11. Thank you!

  12. Hi Sasha, how do you find the time to get these finished products made? I have a hard time keeping up with the gluing, cutting out, laminating, etc.
    Also, how much velcro do you order for an average school year. Do you order dots and strips? I know these probably seem like silly questions, thanks for all you do!

  13. It is time consuming process, definitely! I didn’t make all of the products in one year – it’s taken many years to build up the collection! My paras help me. We utilize the end of the day time and down time during the day. I use dots! SAVES SO MUCH TIME. Feiner supply has them the cheapest by far! Hope this helps!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.