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Counting is all part of a Child’s learning process !!

Counting gifts, counting toys or even counting the little fishies in the tank. For a child, there is no better feeling than getting the exact total numerical value of things they love so much present right before their eyes. Counting is something every child starts learning eventually as they grow up. As they get older counting becomes calculating which would then lead them to the way of planning, managing things in the future etc.

So why is counting so important for a child during their early stages of life? Researchers have found out reasons regarding how children can learn better or improve both their mathematical and even their memory skills. Here are a few reasons as to how counting can help a child in the early stages of their life. 

Children’s Counting abilities linked with future math performance !!

Research suggests that reciting numbers is not enough to prepare children for math success in elementary school. The research indicated that counting which required assigning numerical values to objects in chronological order was important for helping preschoolers acquire math skills.

The difference between reciting and counting !!

According to one researcher reciting and counting were two different things.

  • Reciting meant the kids had to say the numbers aloud from their memory in chronological of order. 
  • Counting involved understanding that each item in the set is counted once and that the last number is the amount for the entire set.
  • When children were just reciting, they were basically just repeating what seemed like a memorized sentence. 
  • When they were counting, they were performing a more cognitive activity in which they were associating a one-to-one correspondence with the object and number to represent a quantity.    

The Study !!

Researchers analyzed the data from more than 3000 from low-income households in order to determine if the children’s reciting and counting abilities in preschool affected their first-grade math scores.

They found that students who could recite and count to 20 in preschool had the highest math scores in first grade; however less than 10 percent of the children in the study could count and recite to 20.

According to a researcher, counting gave children stronger foundations when they started school. The skills children had when they started kindergarten affected their trajectories through early elementary school, therefore, it was important that children started with as many skills as possible. 

Parents versus Teachers

  • Previous studies had shown that in low-income families, parents often thought that children’s education was the responsibility of teachers.
  • While on the other hand teachers expected that the parents tried to teach their children some essential skills at home.
  • Low-income children weren’t learning math skills anywhere because parents thought that the children were learning them at school. 
  • While the teachers thought that the children were learning them at home. 

This could eventually become a problem because it gave parents and teachers the idea that it wasn’t their responsibility to educate the children when it was actually everyone’s responsibility. This became even more problematic because when the children entered kindergarten and were at lower math levels, children didn’t necessarily have the foundational skills needed to set them on paths for future success.

The wise thing to do would be for parents and teachers to integrate counting into all aspects of children’s daily activities so they could master the skill.

The Conclusion!

The researcher concluded by saying that children could learn anything anywhere and this could be applied in the same case for counting. When adults read books with children, they can count the illustrated animals or illustrated characters on each page. 

They could also count things they see when they go outside, like the fallen leaves lying on the ground.

During lunchtime, they can try counting the food in their lunch, like the slices of carrots. 

The research was carried out by Louis Manfra an assistant professor at the University of Missouri’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. 

Children’s counting comprehensions may depend on objects counted!!

Researchers found out that using certain objects for counting had mixed results with preschoolers, particularly in those objects that were rich in details.

The Manipulative things !!

Concrete objects like toys, tiles, and blocks that students could touch and move around called “manipulatives” had been used to teach basic math skills since the 1980s. 

The use of the manipulative objects was based on the long-held belief that young children’s thinking was strictly concrete in nature, so concrete objects were assumed to help them learn math concepts.

However, studies have found out that not all manipulatives were equal. The different kinds of manipulatives could make a difference in how effectively a child learned basic counting and other basic math concepts.

A new discovery !!

Objects that were brightly colored, unusually textured or extremely dimensional could capture children’s attention and help children stay focused on the given task. However the researchers later found out that when children were familiar with objects, then these perceptually detailed objects actually hindered performance on counting tasks because they require dual representation, they must be represented as objects themselves and as the abstract mathematical concept, they were intended to represent.

When children had already established knowledge of the objects, this increased the child’s attention which was often directed to the objects and their known purpose rather than to the mathematical task at hand. Conversely, when children didn't have the established knowledge of the objects, perceptual richness helped the performance.

The findings suggest that it was easier for children to use objects in mathematical tasks when those objects had maximum “bling” and minimum recognizability.

Also, the results suggest that teachers could benefit from taking children’s previous knowledge into account when they were deciding which materials they were supposed to bring into their classrooms.

The research was carried out by Nicole McNeil, Associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame and Notre Dame graduate student Lori Petersen. 

Is it normal for children to count on their fingers?

Something that most of us do every time when we’re presented with a situation that involves recollecting the list of things we need to do, buy or get – we start counting them on our fingers. It isn’t something to be ashamed after all. According to researchers the different kinds of finger games children often play at home are central to their education.

The Study !!

The researchers worked with 137 primary children aged between six and seven. All the children were given different combinations of counting and number games to play but only some were given exercises which involved finger training. 

The children were made to play games involving number symbols like dominoes, shut-the-box or snakes and ladders. The other children were asked to play finger games such as being asked to hold up a given number of fingers or numbering fingers from 1 to 5 and then having to match one of them by touching it against the corresponding finger on the other hand or tracing colored lines using a particular finger.

The Results !!

Both these groups did a little better in math tests than the third group of children who had simply followed the regular class routine. Whereas the group which did both the counting and the finger games performed much better.

The study provides evidence that fingers provide children with a bridge between different representations of numbers which can be verbal, written or symbolic. The researcher concluded by saying that combined finger training could also be a useful tool for teachers to support the children’s understanding of numbers.

The research was carried out by Professor Tim Jay of Sheffield Hallam University and independent researcher Dr. Julie Betenson.