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One-to-One Correspondence and Counting Skills

In addition to the concepts discussed in the section on basic concepts, understanding the one-to-one correspondence of object to object is also necessary before the child can carry out meaningful counting and higher calculations.

Children can find many opportunities in their daily life to experience one-to-one correspondence. They can place one sock inside one shoe or one shoe on one foot; they can get one napkin or snack for each member of the family or class; they can place one lid on each of several containers; they can place pieces in one-piece puzzles.

Once children understand these relationships, they can link one number with one object and then count with understanding. “Rote memorization of a set of numbers is meaningless” (Moore, 1973, p. 67) and counting is a skill which should not be stressed until the child has shown understanding of basic classification, conservation, seriation and set comparison at both the quality level (attributes of objects) and the quantity level (general amounts in groups or sets).

When students are ready to develop the skill of counting, they can benefit from learning several counting strategies to increase their accuracy and efficiency. Students sometimes develop one or more such strategies on their own, but it is to their benefit to provide training in this area. As with any concepts or skills, it is important to start working with real objects and manipulatives and to continue providing these as learning aids.

Objects to be counted are often found in one of several types of arrays: linear, circular, rectangular, or random. The following steps can be helpful for young children in identifying the counting situation, organizing it, and keeping track of their progress as they count the items in the array.

  1. Scanning-The child moves his hands across the top of each item in the array to be counted, in order to obtain information about the objects and the general field over which they are spread. The child could also pick up and examine items and replace them in the tray.
  2. Organizing-If items are randomly displayed, the child can move all items to one side in preparation for counting. If items are already arranged in a linear fashion, the child can locate the first item in the series and scan to confirm the arrangement.
  3. Partitioning-The child can count individual items and move counted items to a separate area on the tray. The child could also pick up items one at a time, give them a name, and replace them apart from those yet to be counted. The child could also individually touch each item to be counted with one hand, giving each a numeral name, while the other hand keeps track of the next item to be counted.

When teaching counting skills, these suggestions might help:

Activities for teaching counting

These types of numeracy readiness activities can be used to lay a solid foundation for a greater understanding of mathematics.


Moore, M. (1973). Development of number concept in blind children. Education of the Visually Handicapped, V, 65-71.

Petreshene, S. S. (1985). Mind joggers! 5 to 15 minute activities that make kids think. West Nyack, NY: The Center for Applied Research in Education, Inc.