Counting skills

Counting skills is a widely used term and include three main sets of skills: knowledge of number words and symbols, number word sequence skills and enumeration (Aunio & Räsänen, 2015). Knowledge of number words and symbols refers to the skills involved in making symbol-verbal and verbal-symbol transitions (e.g. a child is able to say ‘five’ when she sees the number symbol ‘5’). These skills are important as they enable a child to understand how the cultural number system works.

Number word sequence skills refer to knowledge of saying number words in sequences moving forward (e.g. one, two, three, four…), backward (e.g. nine, eight, seven…), skipping (e.g. by twos, fives, tens) and saying number words forward and backward from a given number (e.g. continue counting from 5). Well-developed number word sequence skills are a powerful tool for solving enumeration and arithmetic tasks later.

Enumeration skills imply that a child is counting the numerosity of a set of items by using his or her number word sequence skills. The development of counting skills starts at approximately the age of two when a child recites a number word sequences as a nursery rhyme (one, two, three, four…). By means of modelling and practice, children learn to use number word sequence skills efficiently and flexibly so that enumeration and basic arithmetic tasks (addition and subtraction) are smoothly solved by the age of six.

  • Aunio, P. & Räsänen, P. (2015). Core numerical skills for learning mathematics in children aged five to eight years – a working model for educators. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 24(5), 684–704.