Skip counting is an important skill. It allows kids to calculate more quickly and with more ease. Plus skip counting prepares kids for multiplication and division. Because skip counting is so important, you’ll want to give kids plenty of practice.
Getting past skip counting challenges
Most of us are pretty used to counting by 2s and 5s and 10s and can probably count by 3s and 4s without much problem too. When kids are just learning, it can be trickier. And even when they’ve mastered counting forward, from the number itself they run into certain barriers. Students learning to skip count need to able to:
- Start counting at any multiple of the number. For example, if they are counting by 10s, they should be able to start counting just as easily at 10, 20, 50, or 90.
- Start to count at any number that’s not a multiple. For example, once students can count in 10’s starting at 10 or 20, can they count in 10’s starting at 13 or 47?
- Move beyond place value barriers. My students get stuck at 100 when counting by 10 or 5. Understanding what to do when they reach a new place value is essential.
- Skip count both forward and backward at any number.
Using number charts for skip counting
Number charts, like hundreds grids, are a great way to teach students about skip counting. Students can move along the charts finding the numbers as they go.
If you are just introducing skip counting, get students to count by ones up to the first multiple. For example, if you are going to skip count by 5, have students count by ones up to 5. Put a marker there. Have them continue counting by ones until they count five more. Place another marker at 10. Continue this way until students see the pattern and are able to place the next number (15, 20, 25, 30 …) without counting to five.
You can use this activity to practice skip counting by any number. Once students have marked out the skip counting pattern for a particular number, you can also use the marked pattern to help students practice skip counting backward.
More skip counting practice
Having a good mix of games and activities gives students repeated, but fun, skip counting practice.
One game I love to play is Buzz. It allows you to practice skip counting by any number, and if you like you can start counting from any number.
Start by deciding three things:
- What you are skip counting by (say 10s)
- The starting point (This could be 1, a multiple of 10, or a random number depending on where your students are in their understanding of skip counting.)
- An ending point (You can choose a number based on the time available, pick a number above 100 to help students get past a common skip counting barrier, or see how high students can skip count.)
To play, have your class or group stand in a circle. Tell students they will say Buzz on any numbers that you are skip counting by. Begin counting around the circle in ones, but when a student comes to the number that is a multiple of your skip counting number (say 10), they say “buzz” instead.
That means the correct sequence for skip counting from 1 to 21 by 10s would be: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, BUZZ, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, BUZZ, 21. If students reach one of your skip counting numbers but forget to say Buzz, they sit down until the next round.
This is a great game adaptable to many levels of skip counting practice, and because your groups and orders will vary, students need to pay attention even if you use the same skip counting numbers.
What if you are after more individual practice?
I’ve created a packet of skip counting activity sheets to help you out. The pack includes 50 fun and easy to use skip counting worksheets for multiples of two, three, four, five, and ten. These activity sheets will help your students practice basic skip counting skills and work on getting past common skip counting barriers.
- Missing numbers
- Finding patterns
- Fill in the gaps by counting forward
- Find the odd one out
- More and less
- Order the numbers: smallest to largest and largest to smallest
- Counting patterns: forward and backward
- 2 x finish the dot to dot picture.
The worksheets are ready to download, print and put to use for homework, assessment, math stations, morning work or other individual work.