Practical Lessons for Teaching Counting Skills – An Introduction


6 tips for making words easy

I recently indicated that I would begin to publish e-lessons for specific skills. I am going to begin with teaching students counting skills.  I will then switch to teaching spelling skills. There is no particular order for these lessons. I simply want to help a few more people by offering more than a single strand of curriculum. The lessons will be posted at the end of each blog and will be available to download as e-books.

There are other topics to be considered as you use these lessons. The first of which is the use of Learning Channels. My mentors, Eric and Elizabeth Haughton, introduced me to learning channels just as the whole discussion of learning styles was emerging a few decades ago.

  • Learning Channels are more specific than learning styles and can be directly measured.
  • Learning channels recognize that for all learning, there are input channels and output channels.
  • The task is presented in a particular way, e.g. the student reads, listens, touches, thinks, etc., providing him or her with an input.
  • The student says, writes, marks, thinks, touches as an way to show a response to the input.
  • Learning channels provide more detailed information about what the student is doing. A student could hear/say spelling words, or could hear/write spelling words, or think/say, or think/write.
  • The teacher now has a way to compare learning by presenting it in different input and output channels.
  • Students may learn faster with some specific input channel or some specific output channel.
  • Children with challenges may not have access to some input or output channel, forcing the teacher to find another way to present the material to be learned.


In our math lessons, we will use input and output channels to more clearly indicate what the student will perceive and how s/he will respond. In the beginning we will rely on visual input. The student will look at (See) the materials and will usually respond verbally (Say).  (e.g See/Say numbers in order from 1 to 10.)

Sometimes more than one input or output channel are used simultaneously. (e.g. see/touch/say) when the teacher says “Touch each number and say it.”

The second consideration is in how we determine progress. We use frequency of the response as the data. Every behavior has a frequency and a range of frequencies. If you fall within the frequency range, you are likely to be deemed “normal” . If you have frequencies above or below the frequency range, you are more likely to be considered different. A child in sixth grade who cannot read well (e.g. 50 words/minute) is likely to be labelled as having dyslexia and is considered to have special needs.

To determine progress, we simply select a time period (1 minute, 30 seconds. etc) and time the child’s responses for a particular task. If the score increases and becomes closer to the standard, we have proof of learning as indicated by the pace and quality of the student’s responses. If the frequency fails to increase, especially after 2-3 days, we now know that we have a problem that will force us to pay careful attention to the student in order to determine the difficulty and perhaps change the presentation. The data is an unerring compass with which to determine the direction of the student’s learning on a daily basis in a minute or less..

The third consideration lies in the standards that we set for proficiency. These standards are based on the performances of literally thousands of students of all types in numerous countries and in different languages. Much of the research is presented in The Journal of Precision Teaching and in national studies such as the Sacajewa Project. These standards are set out as frequencies with an acceptable range of corrects and errors. (E.g The student can see/say numbers 1-100 at 150-200 counts per minute with no more than 2 errors.)

As just one example, with most (See/Say) tasks, those which provide a model and (Think/Say) tasks, those without a model, we expect the student to say 150-200 numbers per minute while counting. The standards are included in the lesson.

So let’s get started!

The One-Minute Teacher

 Rote Counting Skills From 1 to 10 (Forward)


Until a student has well-developed counting skills, all other aspects of arithmetic will be difficult or impossible to do. Fluent counting skills are the basis for most other activities in arithmetic. There are a number of different components that students need to be taught before they attempt to learn more advanced arithmetic operations such as addition or subtraction. Counting forwards is essential for addition. To the extent that we do not prepare the student with fluent counting skills, the task of teaching arithmetic will be problematic. In this exercise we will teach rote counting from 1 to 10 forward and we will practice until the fluency level of 200 counts/minute with 2 or fewer errors is reached.


The numbers from 1 to 10 printed below. A second blank sheet of paper.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Rote Counting from 1 to 10. See and Say Numbers from 1 to 10

This task should be done for a couple of minutes each day until the student counts to 10 quickly and easily without errors.

Task 1: Counting from 1 to 5

Cover the numbers from 6 to 10 with the blank sheet of paper. Say to the student, “Now we are going to learn to count. I am going to count from 1 to 5. I will touch each number and say it. Listen.” Touch each number from 1 to 5 and say it. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Listen again.” Touch each number from 1 to 5 and say it again. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”

Say, “Count from 1 to 5 with me. I will touch the numbers. When I touch the number we will both say it. Ready.” (Signal) Touch each number and count from 1 to 5 with the student. Say, “Good job. You did it. You counted from 1 to 5. Let’s do that again. Count with me. Ready.” (Signal) Touch each number and count with the student. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Good work.”

Say, “Now try that all by yourself. Touch each number and count from 1 to 5. Ready.” (Signal). Watch the student touch each number and listen to the child count from 1 to 5. Say, “You did it. Good counting. Do that for me one more time. Ready.” (Signal) Repeat task. Say, “Excellent, you are learning to count well.”

Correction Procedure:

If the child cannot count to 5 without making errors, change the task and count from 1 to 3. Cover up all of the numbers after 3. When the child can count to three without making mistakes uncover the next two numbers and count to 5. Make sure the student can count to 5 quickly and accurately before you begin Task 2.

Part 2 next week…




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