Video: How to Teach Counting On and Counting Back by One

This is a strategy for the very young: based on their ability to count forwards and backwards, we ask them “what number is after…?” or “what number is before…?”. Little children learn to count by copying others around them – even Sesame Street characters! By the way, this is one place where rote learning is not only a good way to learn, it’s essential – there is no other way to memorise a random sequence of words.

All the questions involve simple addition and subtraction number facts, and are some of the first facts we want students to memorize. The strategy is based on counting, one of the first mathematics skills developed by very young children. All we do here is ask students to use the counting sequence they know to “remember” what the numbers either side of a starting number are; in other words, what is one more and one less..

One important note: we want to encourage children to use just a part of the counting sequence for each question, and not start from 1 every time. For example, when asked “What number comes right after 5?”, we want the child to think just of the sequence “five, six”, not to have to go all the way back to the beginning: “one, two, three, four, five, six”.

What to Notice in the Counting On and Counting Back Worksheets:

The worksheets have a variety of questions in them, including the following four types:

adding 1 (eg, 7+1=)

subtracting 1 (eg, 10-1=)

start with 1, add another number (eg, 1+5=)

subtract when the difference is 1 (eg, 8-7=)

I recommend that you talk to your students about these questions, and get them to think about how to answer each sort, based on the ability they already possess, to count by ones.