Basic Math Skills: Counting and Cardinality

Knowing and Understanding Counting

Counters for counting and sorting. Jerry Webster

Counting and understanding cardinal order are fundamental for using numbers. One of the first skills students need to master is to understand that sets of objects can be assigned number names. Students with disabilities require two things: concrete manipulatives and lots and lots of repetition.

These activities are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and you will find goals written which are both aligned to these standards and support these activities.

One to one correspondence:

Students know that sets of numbers correspond to cardinal number, i.e.: The pictures of 3 birds correspond to the number three.

Activities for one to one correspondence:

  • Muffin Tins. Place numbers on papers at the bottom of muffin tin cups and have students count "counters" into each space.
  • Counting worksheets: matching pictures to numbers, either cutting, circling or writing the correct numeral.
  • Counting Mats. Laminate cards with numbers and perhaps stars or circles for the students to place counters.

Place Value

Counting numbers past ten requires an understanding of place value and the base 10 system of numeration. In the United States a great deal of attention is paid in Kindergarten and first grade to bundling straws and teaching place value by counting days. That's what all those "Happy 100's Days" are all about. Children with disabilities, especially specific learning disabilities, may not be paying attention, and also have a much larger need to handle manipulatives.

Several strategies will help children understand the base ten system and numbers larger than ten.

  • Hundreds Charts: A visual representation of one hundred with rows of tens creates a field for many activities. When laminated, students can use them to mark for skip counting by 2's, 5's, 10's and other combinations in preparation for multiplication. Charts with blanks for skip counting 5's and 10's can give learning disabled students practice skip counting.
  • Place Value Blocks: One centimeter blocks, ten centimeter long rods, 100 square centimeter squares and thousand centimeter cubes can be used with laminated place value charts to practice writings numbers larger than 10.