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Skip Counting—How To Help Kids Piece It Together

Even when kids "get" skip counting there are often points where they get stuck. Here are 3 common skip counting barriers and how students can get past them.

Some kids will struggle with skip counting more than others, but even when kids “get it” there are often points where they get stuck. When you know the common skip counting barriers and have the right tools in place, you can help kids piece it together to get past those skip counting sticking points. 

The three most common skip counting sticking points I see are:

  • Moving past place value barriers
  • Skip counting forward and back from any number
  • Starting to count at any number that’s not a multiple

Once students can skip count forward from a multiple up to 100, it’s time to practice these three skip counting skills. 

Skip counting beyond place value barriers

Have you ever had students get really comfortable with skip counting, but get absolutely stymied when they reach 100? It’s not uncommon. I have two tools to help students get past this skip counting barrier: number charts and tools. 

Number charts for skip counting

If you typically use hundreds charts, you’ll want one that goes higher. Often they go up to 120, which should be sufficient. Usually, students just need to see how the pattern works once they pass the 100 barrier. Once they understand that, they can generally keep going.

Have students skip count, marking the numbers they say on the chart. Say you are skip counting by 10s. Students would say and mark 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90. If students get stuck at 100 or getting past it, have them count out ten to see where it falls. Have them continue until they reach the end of the chart. Ask if they know what would be next. 

Even when kids "get" skip counting there are often points where they get stuck. Here are 3 common skip counting barriers and how students can get past them.

Collections for skip counting

To help students skip count past 100 with collections, you need sets of small objects such as buttons or craft sticks for students to count. You’ll need more than 100 of the items students will count (120 is a good number) and containers for students to count the collections into. 

Students create collections based on the number you are skip counting by. If you are skip counting by 5s, they create collections of 5s. Have them continue counting collections until all the items have been counted. Then they skip count to find the total number of the objects. As they touch each container, they say the next skip counting number. If they get stuck at 100, they can count from ones to figure out what is next. So if they skip count to 95 and have three collections left, but don’t know what comes next, they can count by ones to see that 5 after 95 is 100 and 5 after that is 105 and 5 after that is 110. 

Skip counting both forward and backward from any number

So your students can skip count forward up to and past 100. Can they skip count backward? They should be able to, but it may take some practice. 

Number charts to the rescue again. The first time you go over skip counting backward, demonstrate skip counting forward on a number chart, marking each number as you say it. Then explain that you can skip count backward too. With the numbers still marked, demonstrate skip counting backward before giving students clear number charts and having them try skip counting backward themselves.

Once students are able to skip count backward with some ease, challenge them to start skip counting somewhere in the middle. For example, ask if they can skip count by 5s to 100, starting at 55? Next step, can they do the same thing moving backward? The number chart gives them a great visual for practice, allowing them to count out any place where they get stuck. Once they use the number chart to help them understand, they can work on skip counting without it.

Skip counting from any number that’s not a multiple

When we start skip counting, we start with multiples of the number we are skip counting by. For example, 5, 10, 15, 20 … all are multiples of 5. This alone is useful to students, but being able to skip count from non-multiples is important too. 

What does skip counting by a non-multiple look like? Say you are skip counting by 5s but you are starting at 12. What would be next? (12, 17, 22, 27, 32 …). As you teach this skill, starting with skip counting by 10s is a good idea, because there is a clear pattern that students can identify. Once they understand that, they should be able to see the alternating pattern in skip counting by 5s. 

To practice skip counting from any number that’s not a multiple, you can use a numbers chart again. Choose a number, let’s say 3, and ask students to skip count by 10. Students might start by counting out 10 on their numbers chart, starting at 3 and circling the next “10” at 13. They can keep counting out 10 a few times. Then ask them what they notice. They may say that all the answers end in 3 or that they are all in the same column. Encourage them to predict the next few numbers by using the chart without counting it out. Have them try counting by 10s from another number. Ask if they can use what they learned from skip counting by 10 from 3 to skip count by 10 from another number. 

Tools for skip counting past multiple barriers

Number charts are an excellent tool for helping students past multiple skip counting barriers. Collections likewise can be adapted to help students practice some of the more advanced skip counting skills. Sometimes students need additional practice, though. You may want skip counting worksheets you can use in your math center or send home for homework. Or you may want something a little different from a traditional worksheet, like skip counting puzzles

Even when kids "get" skip counting there are often points where they get stuck. Here are 3 common skip counting barriers and how students can get past them.

Skip counting puzzles are a fun way for students to practice skip counting. Each puzzle piece has a number on it. Once the numbers are arranged in the correct order, a colorful picture is completed. You can get a bundle of 100 skip counting puzzles for multiples of two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten and one hundred to help students practice skip counting forward and backward. 

Get your skip counting puzzle bundle here to help students piece it together as they skip count past common barriers >> https://topnotchteaching.com/downloads/counting-puzzles-bundle/

Some kids will struggle with skip counting more than others, but even when kids “get it” there are often points where they get stuck. Today I discuss the three most common skip counting sticking points and how students can move past them. #mathactivities #mathgames #teachingmath

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