Teaching Math with Counting

Walking Steps and Counting Them

Counting is a big deal in our household these days. Daughter’s 21 months old so teaching advanced multivariable calculus takes way too long for her attention span.

But we count everything. Things in books, steps, bobby pins, people… you name it.

We count in negatives, too.

If you’re following my tweets, you might know that I count to Daughter in the bathtub – from negative 30 to positive 30.

My neighbor suggested that early introduction to negatives might have helped her friend’s 14 year old son. He now has all sorts of difficulties with math. Not the least of which is arithmetic among positives and negatives.

This makes me even more excited about counting in negatives to Daughter.

Counting in negatives shows order.

You may not need 61 seconds of anything. But you can count from negative 5 to positive 5. The point in the counting of negatives is to introduce the order of the numbers – since negatives seem to go “backwards” when you list them in order.

And you can introduce distances with counting. You can show how distance is different than the number of points. Counting from -5 to +5 is actually 11 numbers. In this video you can see how I “rediscovered” this and then explained it:

Parents often focus on the alphabet and reading in the very early years. There’s some neglect of math things outside of counting to 10 (starting at 1). You can do so much with counting – counting negatives, counting distances, skip counting (2, 4, 6, 8, etc.), finger counting, counting backwards.

Counting is the foundation of all of math. And there’s tons of fun ways to use it in the early years.

Share your ideas about counting in the comments below!

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