Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Rote Counting

Our two year old, Little Angel has started “counting” to ten.  It isn’t “real” counting, more reciting of number names in more or less the right order. We aren’t pushing it or even overly encouraging her, she just recites when she sees numbers (or letters) or picks up objects and starts counting. She recently surprised us by saying eleven, twelve. But a new skill has emerged… counting by 2s. “Two, four, sic (six) eigh (t), ten.” We had no idea where she picked this up… but they are little sponges, so we had a hard think and watched ourselves carefully. 

So here is what we were thinking:
·           She is not rote counting by 1s because she is unable to consistently count to ten in the right order, but can recite count by 2s to ten.
·           She is not one to one counting, but is able to give out one cookie to each person. (this is the beginning of one to one correspondence)
·           She doesn’t say the number one and won’t count unless there is more than two objects .
·           We often count together to change her nappy (often a two adult job)
·           She LOVES watching Playschool and Sesame street on TV. They do a lot of counting!
·           Her Favourite iPad app is Counting Bear
·           We read A LOT of books that encourage counting in them like Playful Penguins and Busy Bees.

We asked at Childcare (she attends twice a week) and their response was that they use a play based curriculum and they don’t teach children to count at this age.  (I wonder if they’ve been reading any books with numbers or counting objects, setting the table with spoons and cups? and if my child is play counting then shouldn't they then include this in their planning?)

Then we went to visit Grandma...
·           When nappy changing, Grandma counts with Little Angel, taking it in turns to say a number.
·           At Grandma’s she watches Thomas the Tank Engine (boy cousins) on TV and guess what …in the intro song they count by 2s! 

But could this be enough to make her count by 2s? 

As qualified teachers of 4-12 year olds we know that it is important to learn to rote count. It is the beginning of counting and a solid understanding of number. Later students can learn to rote count backwards from 10 (or 20) and then rote count by number patterns such as 2s, 3s 5s. From this stage we can go onto talking about ‘trusting the count’,  cardinal numbers, bridging when counting (you know counting, 17,18, 19 then to 20 or backwards from 100 by tens 100, 90, 80, 70 …my five year olds often counted 100, 90, 80, 70,60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 19, 18... 

But for Little Angel, that’s taking a giant leap. For the moment, we have decided to set up a number of counting “opportunities” for Little Angel. 

We don’t have the type of child to sit and be “taught” (and what two year old sits and listens) We can’t do a three part lesson, Montessori fails us in that regard. So we’ve put out around the house IKEA side tables and a number of “Toys”. An empty shoe box and a bucket of dinosaurs, an egg carton (cut off to be a ten frame for one of my tutoring students) filled with pom poms and a set of tongs, Paper and stackable PLAYON crayons, translucent beads on the Light Table with plastic cups, coloured icypole sticks and playdough and laminated cardboard shapes – all triangles. (Taken from a Year Three teacher-made board game)   

Little Angel won’t learn to count overnight and we’re not expecting her to. We’re not encouraging the counting by 2s though, we’ll keep counting by 1s! It is our job and parents and her primary educators to give her every opportunity to explore and PLAY with her new found skills and if the icypole sticks end up making a pretty hedgehog or birthday cake with candles, then so be it!
For some useful reading and teacher jargon check out:

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