It’s interesting watching younger students learn about numbers and skip counting. I love how when they have a group of objects they must touch each one in order to count/know how many are there.
My girl is now in pre-primary so she is learning more about numbers and how we use them in everyday life. The other day she came home from school counting in 10’s. She was just playing around the house when I heard her chanting…10, 20, 30, 40…all the way up to 100.
But she didn’t seem to know what to do beyond 100.
What is skip counting?
This got me thinking more about early multiplication concepts and the idea of skip counting.
Skip counting is being able to count forwards and backwards in multiples, such as twos, fours, fives, tens etc.
Practice in skip counting helps kids with the development of fluency in calculation and is the basis for multiplication and division.
Difficulties kids encounter when learning to skip count
Some of the difficulties kids encounter with skip counting tend to include:
- Moving beyond place value barriers. Such as with my girl, she didn’t know how to go beyond 100;
- Starting to count at any number that’s not a multiple. For example, once students can count in 10’s starting at 10 or 20 or 50. Can they count in 10’s starting at 12 or 33?; and
- Being able to skip count both forwards and backwards at any number.
So I wanted to share with you some of the skip counting activities I have used in the past with students as well as some of the ideas I’m using with my girl to help her develop these skills further.
Skip counting using collections
Using collections is a great way to help little kids learn to skip count.
This does take quite a bit of set-up for the teacher, but the kids love counting different collections. To make it easy set up zip lock bags with different objects as well as different numbers of objects in each. This way you can have bags that suit the ability levels of your kids. You also need containers to count the collections into.
If you’re focusing on counting by tens, then your students count out ten of the objects to make one collection.
They continue counting collections of ten until they are all gone. Then they skip count to find the total number of the objects. They can then record this collection. In the picture below we recorded each set of ten on our whiteboard.
There is also a fantastic video on Teaching Channel that shows a teacher using various tools and strategies to help her students learn to skip count by 5s and 10s.
Using hundreds grids
If skip counting is new to your students, get them to count by ones up to the first multiple. So if counting by tens have your students count by ones until they reach ten and then place the first counter on ten. Then get them to count ten more, place a counter. They will soon see the pattern and will probably just be able to add the counter to the next number without counting ten each time.
Once your students are comfortable with this, then get them to start at a different number such as 13. You can also get them to use the chart to count backwards.
Buzz (also known as Beep)
I used to play this game in school when I was a kid and I always enjoyed it. It can be as simple as you like, but it also has the scope to be quite complex. And what’s even better is that you don’t need anything to set it up.
- First the teacher decides on a starting point and ending point. For example, with my girl we started at 1 and finished at 120 (so as to try and overcome the place value barrier).
Buzz on numbers that are multiples of 10.
- If you’re doing this with a class or small group have them standing in a circle.
- Begin by counting around the circle in ones, but when a student comes to the number that is a multiple of 10, they say “buzz” instead.
- For example, a correct sequence would be, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, BUZZ, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, BUZZ, 21 ….”
- If a student forgets to say buzz, then they are out of the game and must sit down. The game finishes when you reach the end number.
This game can so easily be differentiated to suit the various ability levels of your kids. You could start at a number that it is not one, begin counting at numbers that are not a multiple, count backwards or even include more than one multiple.
There are also many books out there that include skip counting. Some good ones include:
Computer videos and games
If you have access to a computer there are some fun games and videos you can use to show and practice skip counting.
Counting by twos with frog jumping
In the video a frog jumps over every second number from 1 to 100. Your students can count each jump.
Students find ten more than a given number. They use the mouse to select the correct answer.
Your students can use the sequencer to practice counting aloud different skip counting sequences. You can set the starting number, increment and speed.
Your students colour numbers on the interactive number chart for different multiples.
Skip counting puzzles
I’ve also put together some skip counting puzzles that I’ve been using with my girl to assist her with skip counting and in overcoming some of the difficulties.
The puzzles are all for multiples of ten. They include different puzzles that cover all of the barriers mentioned above.
The puzzle sequences counting forwards include: 10 – 100; 10 – 120; 40 – 150; 13 – 103; and 27 – 137.
The puzzle sequences counting backwards include: 100 – 10; 120 – 10; 170 – 60; 109 – 19; and 144 – 34.
To get your copy of the skip counting puzzles, fill in the form below so they can be emailed to you as a PDF.
I hope I have given you some other ways that you can help your students practice skip counting.
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