Teaching Arithmetic Skills – Let’s Get Started!!


In the next number of posts, I am going to provide parents, tutors, teachers, therapists and aides with actual lessons that you can use with children who have non-existent or weak counting skills.

I will be posting 2 lessons per week for the foreseeable future. From time to time, I will likely change topics to add something for those who do not need information on math skills.

I will be presenting topics in a scope and sequence that will be a step by step process for teaching arithmetic. Obviously the starting points will be in number recognition and counting. As always I will be using;

  •  A Behavioral Objective – a clearly stated description of what the behavior looks like when it is fluent. The objective is able to be counted and is completely transparent to anyone looking at the child’s performances or their previous scores.
  •  Behavior Analysis and Behavior Management created by B.F. Skinner at Harvard University to get and keep the student under  instructional control using praise points and other rewards.
  •  The Direct Instruction Method created by Sigfried Engelmann at the University of Oregon for instruction
  •  The Precision Teaching Method created by Ogden Lindsley at Kansas University for measurement.


The first set of blogs will be centered around counting skills. Students with poor counting skills are often forced to rely on counting on their fingers or making marks with a pencil in order to determine how many items are in an array. It is a slow, arduous and error prone way to approach arithmetic operations. So our first task will be to teach the student to recognize numbers and to learn to count to various levels fluently.

This set of lessons will always have two levels of learning. First of all the student will See and Say the tasks until they are fluent. Then the task will change to Think and Say, a situation in which the student must rely on memory and do the task without the benefit of seeing the array. Think and Say tasks are more difficult. They also need to be taught to the student and practiced with the student until the performances are fluent.

  • Fluency has two attributes.
    1. The student must demonstrate the task at a given pace.
    2. The student must also do the tasks within a specified error limit.


Until the student masters the task with a specified pace and with a specified level of accuracy, our job is not finished.

When considering counting skills, students need to be able to count with and without a model at 150 plus counts per minute with no more than 2 errors per minute.

And we must always remember that;

If the student didn’t learn, the teacher didn’t teach.

So let’s get started with our first task that of teaching a student to count from 1 to 10.

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