Counting and One to One Correspondance

Once children can regonise the sounds of numbers they are taking their first steps towards being able to count. Child handing out 'cakes'.

There are two stages of counting that all children go through – rote counting and rational counting (one-to-one correspondence).

What is Rote Counting?

Rote counting basically means parrot-like counting. It is when a child learns the number names and can say them in sequence. Rote counting is important because children need to memorize the number names so they can associate each name with a symbol and learn them in the correct sequence

A child who can rote count may not necessarily count each object once or may count the same object several times.

What is Rational Counting?

Rational counting means a child is able to assign the correct number name to each object as they are counted in succession.

They are then able to answer the question of how many objects there are in total.

One-to-One Correspondence

  • A one-to-one correspondence is an important distinction between rote and rational counting.
  • A child who is able to count rationally is not just sayinga list of numbers in order. Rather, they able to use one-to-one correspondence when counting.
  • This means they able to count a set of 5 objects by pointing to each object and assigning each object the next number name until each object has been counted once.
  • A child who has not yet developed one-to-one correspondence may skip over an object, count an object more than once, or not yet see a connection between the number names and the objects

How to Teach Your Child One to One Correspondence

You can introduce one-to-one correspondence from an early age.

There are actually two ways your child will learn this skill – through play or by teaching them.

Learning through play

  • Children will naturally be exposed to opportunities in their daily life to practice one-to-one correspondence.
    They will also have these experiences in the real world which will help them learn that mathematics is routed in real-life scenarios.
  • Children will experience one-to-one correspondence in many play and everyday scenarios, for example:
  • In the sandpit (e.g. making cakes and placing a ‘candle’ on each one)
  • Playing with a tea set and matching cups to saucers
  • Putting on socks, shoes and gloves (learning the value of a pair)
  • Climbing the steps and counting them.
  • As a parent, you can model one-to-one correspondence in your everyday interaction with your child so that she learns just by watching you.

    Teaching one-to-one correspondence

  • In the home you should provide hands-on experiences for your child to count, using a variety of objects such as beads, buttons, blocks, Lego pieces, wooden planks, construction toys, food items, etc.

  • Experiences must be fun and meaningful (e.g. counting how many glasses we need for the supper table) or your child will lose interest and not develop a love for mathematics.
  • When you count together, make sure you are always using real, concrete objects. Later on, you can count pictures of objects as you read (“How many clouds do you see in the sky”). Preschoolers are too young to count abstract numbers (e.g. 3 plus 5).

One-to-One Correspondence Activities for younger children

Count Body Parts

  • The best place to start with toddlers is to count their body parts because children experience the world through their bodies.
  • Start by counting one nose, one mouth, then move onto two eyes and ears. Ask your child to count your eyes and ears as well. Soon, they will be able to count the fingers on one hand, then the other, then both together. Count the toes as well.
  • Ask them to hold out one hand and you’ll pass her one cup, or hold out two hands and you’ll pass her two cups.

Count Everyday Objects

  • Make it a habit to count things as you encounter them in everyday life.
  • Count your steps as you walk with your child, count their socks as you put them on, count the blue cars you pass on the road, etc.
  • Opportunities are everywhere – just be ready to spot them.

In the Bath

  • Bath time is a great time for learning to count.
  • With a young child, offer them some toys such as ducks, saying “I am giving you 2 ducks”, “Here is another duck. Now let’s count how many you have”. Touch or pick up each duck as you say each number name slowly.
  • When they are older, offer more toys in the bath. Throw in some capacity and count how many cups of water you need to fill the jug.

In the Sandpit

  • The sandpit is another place where children learn many mathematical skills.
  • Make mud pies or cupcakes and ask your child to make enough for each member of the family. Make a row of turned-out shapes and count them.

In the Kitchen

  • Get your child involved in learning while you cook together
  • Ask them to bring you 3 tomatoes for your salad or count how many bread rolls there are.
  • If your child is a little older, ask them to fetch one potato for each person in the family. If they struggle, first count on your fingers how many family members there are, then ask them to get that number of potatoes.