Counting with one to one correspondence is an important foundational math skill, and is different from rote counting. Read on for easy prep activities that help children learn this important skill!
Rote counting means saying the numbers correctly in order: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, “… and so on. Counting with one to one correspondence means that a child is able to point to each object as they say the number, saying only one number as they point to each object.
Children need to be able to rote count before they can accurately count objects with one to one correspondence. A child who rote counts inaccurately, such as saying “1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10” for example, will need to learn to say the numbers in order correctly, before counting with one to one correspondence.
I remember so many times over the years during a parent conference when I would tell a parent that their child is able to count objects up to 7, and the parent would say, “but my child can count to 20!” Then I would have to explain the difference between rote counting versus counting with one to one correspondence, and the reasons we teachers want children to learn this skill.
If a child doesn’t yet have one to one correspondence, they will either say the numbers faster than they touch the objects, or they will touch the objects faster than they say the numbers. So, for 5 bears on the table, they might over count them, and say that there are 8 bears. Or, they might tap the bears with their finger quicker than they say numbers, and end up telling you that there are 4 bears.
To an adult, this may sound like a skill so easy to master that it wouldn’t be necessary to spend much time on. An article from Erickson Institute Early Math says that counting with one to one correspondence “requires coordinating motor movement and speech with exact synchrony.” For a Pre-K child, that requires some practice!
How to Teach One to One Correspondence with Counting
To teach this skill, have children do something or move something as they say each number.
For example, when walking down the hall, have the class count as they take each step. Or, have them jump as they say each number. When using manipulatives, have children move things from one spot to another as they say the numbers.
Clip Counting with One to One Correspondence
For this activity, you will need dot stickers, clothespins, and paint sticks. Paint sticks can be purchased in a pack in hardware stores or just ask for donations.
Stick the dot stickers on the paint stick. If you are working on 1-10, use 10 dot stickers. You may want to work on less numbers with beginners, such as 1-5 or 1-8, depending on their level. You can write the numbers on the stickers, but you really do not need the numbers. The important thing is to say a number out loud each time a clip is placed on a sticker dot.
For a right handed child, I would put the handle on the left side so they can hold it with their left hand and clip the clothespins with their right hand. Then do the opposite for a left handed child. You could also put the number stickers on both sides of each stick and have children choose the side they need.
Each time a child clips a clip onto the stick, have them say the next number. As they put a clip on 1, say 1; as they put a clip on 2, say 2; and so on.
Feed the Animals: One to One Correspondence Counting
For this activity, you will need a set of small plastic farm animals, a small bowl of corn seed, dot stickers, and a tray. You can just use a piece of paper if a tray is not available.
Write numbers on the dot stickers and place the dot stickers on the tray. As with each activity, this doesn’t have to be 1-10. You can use 1-4 if that better fits the child’s needs.
Just a tip: when sticking the stickers on the tray (or on paper), place them lightly on so that you can move them if you need to. I had to move these and space them out a little better.
Have the child place an animal behind each number. You can have them verbally practice counting as they place each animal, or you may want to just let them set up the animals and then count with the corn. Either way, it’s still practicing one to one correspondence: one animal for each sticker!
Have the child count out loud as they feed each animal and place one piece of corn in front of each animal.
If the numbers are distracting, leave them off and just put down the dot stickers. You would still help the child say each number as they place the corn.
Play Dough Smush: One to One Correspondence Activity
For play dough smush, have the child tear off pieces of play dough and roll each piece into a ball.
Have the child smush each play dough ball with their finger as they say each number: “1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5”.
You can practice counting to any number.
PopIts Bracelet Counting
Children love popits and these popit bracelets are perfect for counting practice to 10.
Write numerals 1-10 with a permanent marker (or whatever numbers you are working on).
Have children lay the bracelet on the table or hold it rather than wear it while counting. Have them say each number as they push it on the bracelet.
More one to one correspondence activities are coming to this page very soon, so stay tuned! You can sign up for my email newsletter here to get a notification when more have been added!