Skip Counting in the Curriculum
Learning to count involves a series of stages. A number of articles reveal these as the key points of development.
1. Saying the number names by rote.
2. Counting a collection.
3. Count forwards and backwards from any starting point, up to 100.
4. Counting from zero by twos, fives and tens.
5. Counting from various starting points by twos, fives and tens.
6. Applying and extending the use of counting skills to any skip count and to solve problems.
Skip counting is an important progression point on this development journey. So, where does skip counting fit into the Australian Curriculum? The table below shows the progression of learning through the content that deals with counting in general. You can see that it quickly progresses to skip counting and beyond.
|Foundation||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
|Establish understanding of the language and processes of counting by naming numbers in sequences, initially to and from 20, moving from any starting point (ACMNA001)||Develop confidence with number sequences to and from 100 by ones from any starting point. Skip count by twos, fives and tens starting from zero (ACMNA012)||Investigate number sequences, initially those increasing and decreasing by twos, threes, fives and ten from any starting point, then moving to other sequences. (ACMNA026)||Recall multiplication facts of two, three, five and ten and related division facts (ACMNA056)|
|Connect number names, numerals and quantities, including zero, initially up to 10 and then beyond (ACMNA002)||Recognise and represent multiplication as repeated addition, groups and arrays (ACMNA031)|
While skip counting is a vital part of the learning progression for learning to count, it is also an important skill for successful achievement of other number concepts.
Skip counting provides a vital link to understanding and learning the multiplication basic facts. Proficient skip counting supports students to more easily recognise number sequences that are formed by adding or subtracting a constant amount. Skip counting is essential when learning to tell the time and working with money. It cannot be understated how important being able to skip count by tens is to grasping the workings of the place value system and then being able to calculate efficiently with double digit numbers.
Students who struggle with skip counting can find the concepts mentioned above a struggle also, so it is imperative we spend as much time developing skip counting as we do counting by ones. However it is important to ensure students have a sound understanding of the principles of counting by ones before we introduce skip counting. A premature focus on skip counting skills can be counterproductive to having students internalise the principles of counting by ones.
When students are learning to skip count it is important to have them count real collections. They need to see that you move more than one item, but say one number. Skip counting a large collection is useful to show students the reason for skip counting is to be faster than counting by ones. Counting the same large collection by ones, twos, fives and tens shows that the total stays the same no matter how it is counted. Examples of large collections are; pasta, lollies, bottle tops, boxes of paperclips, matchsticks and stickers. The collection can be shown on a poster with the skip counting numbers written next to each group.
The constant function on the calculator (+ skip count amount = = =) can be useful to help students move beyond their skip counting limits. It can also be used to help students record the sequence of numbers as they count a collection. Having students record the sequence of numbers they generate with a calculator and then having the explore patterns in the way the numbers are written is useful. We want students to use the patterns in the numbers rather that relying on a recall of rote learned numbers.
Showing students items that come in groups of twos, fives and tens can help those who do not see the point of skip counting use it as a strategy. Get students to investigate real life examples of items that come in groups, photograph them and use these photos in skip counting practise activities.
Many teachers use hundred grids to explore the skip counting patterns from 0 to 100 by getting students colour in the numbers that belong to a particular skip count. This can be an effective activity if you get students to focus on the changes in the ones and tens numbers as they skip count.
Ask focus questions such as;
“How many numbers do I skip count until I get to the next ten?”
“What pattern can you see in the tens numbers?”
“What pattern can you see in the ones numbers?”
“Which number will I colour in next?”
“What would the next line of the grid (after 100) look like?”
It can also be fun to give them a grid that has been coloured incorrectly and get them to find the errors.
Over to You
I would love to hear about any great ideas you have for teaching skip counting. Leave a comment in the space below if you have found something that works for you.