During the first few of teaching Kindergarten, I would sit the children down with an assortment of materials and watch them 'play'. Many would sort the materials according to colour or item, others would use the materials to tell little stories and some would stack them to make towers for their friends to tumble over. Whatever the children chose to do, they were still experimenting and investigating ways to use the group of objects in front of them.
It was always interesting to stop the children at a point and speak to them about how they sorted, stacked and grouped. Often, we don't get enough time during the Maths lesson to really find out how the children are 'working mathematically' or... how they are reasoning. Like anything, we learn best when we understand WHY we are doing it in the first place.
Counting is no different. For a lot of children, learning to count is just a verbal rehearsal of numbers in a sequence. While this is a necessary skill, the children often lose the MEANING of counting when you place objects in front of them and ask them to count them one at a time. More often than not, a child will point randomly at the objects while reciting the numbers in order to a tune they may have learnt. It isn't until we stop the child and ask them to point at each object as they count the number, they they then make that critical connection. We call this One-to-One Correspondence.
At Tightrope Learning, we count all the time! Of course we sing number songs and learn numbers in sequence, but the children know that when we count, we do so slowly, pointing to each object as we go. When they understand this skill, the children then count backwards, taking each object away as we count down.
Below is just one example of how a little girl counted monkeys one-to-one to get to 10.
So what can you do with your child at home to enable this one-to-one correspondence to sink in? A great idea is to have your child set the table. Ask them to count out (one at a time of course!) the forks, knives, spoons, serviettes, plates and cups then place them on the table in the same way. Another idea may be to share a block of chocolate with the family, counting out the squares into little cups or bowls in a "one for you, one for you, one for you" fashion. Whatever the activity, you just need to ensure that your child isn't counting too fast or too slow when pointing.