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How Would We Count?

Age 5 to 11
Challenge Level

How Would We Count?

How Would We Count? printable sheet

How many dots?

 How did you count them?


What about your friends, how did each of them count the dots?


Ask your teacher for some other pictures of dots for you to count and share ideas about how you counted them.


Why do this problem?

This activity enables the adult to learn something of how children visualise numbers when counting and/or adding.  The activity is also a good catalyst for children having a discussion together and sharing their ideas, as it is easy to see that there is no "right" way of going about it. A key element of this is the adult creating an encouraging environment where children feel comfortable to share their thinking. 

Possible approach

Display the 'blue' image so that everyone can see it - it may be helpful to use a whiteboard, if one is available. The aim is to encourage the children to 'say' what is in their heads about the counting such as, 

'I can see three lines. One is a line of six and one is a line of five and there's a line of four and then there is these other ones in between.'

They may well see something different to what you see. Be prepared for surprises! 

A valuable discussion can then follow with the children saying what they think about others' 'say' about their counting.

Here are some further examples that can be used in a similar way .doc  pdf


Key questions

How many?

How do you know?
What did you do?
How would you check?
What made you decide to change your way of counting this time? 

Possible extension

A handful of pebbles scattered on to a tray can lead to similar questions and discussions.

The children could then go on to try counting other things that they come across in the real world such as seeds on a sunflower, patterns on clothing, flowers in a flower-bed or spots on different animals' skin.


Possible support

A handful of pebbles scattered on to a tray may help and be easier to count than dots on a page.
The difficulty is often keeping track of what has been counted and what there is still to count. See whether the children can devise strategies to help such as making a small dot beside the dots as they count or moving pebbles from one side of the tray to the other. Counting is not as easy as you might think!
Try working one-to-one and break the activity down into small steps. 
Use 'we' rather than 'you' and 'you may like to start with...'
You could say: 'We want to find out how many dots there are.....can we do that?'