Series Building on Young Children's Mathematical Thinking : Exploring Numbers with Counting Collections


Common core State Standards

  • Math:  Math
  • K:  Kindergarten
  • CC:  Counting & Cardinality
  • B:  Count to tell the number of objects
  • 4: 
    Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities; connect counting to cardinality.

    a. When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only one object.

    b. Understand that the last number name said tells the number of objects counted. The number of objects is the same regardless of their arrangement or the order in which they were counted.

    c. Understand that each successive number name refers to a quantity that is one larger.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Exploring Numbers with Counting Collections

Lesson Objective: Count groups of manipulatives
Pre-K / Math / Number Sense


Enjoy your first video for free. Subscribe for unlimited access.

Have questions about subscribing? Click Here to learn more.

Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does Ms. Gaxiola use counting collections to help students build an understanding of addition and subtraction?
  2. What differentiation strategies does Ms. Gaxiola use?
  3. How could you make counting collections a part of your classroom routine?


  • Private message to Avery Baird

This is a great example of when asking the students good questions helps them understand what they are doing and challenging their minds as well. Giving them items to work with hands-on is important at this young age so that they are using their motor skills to understand and count. I love how this teacher said each student is learning at their own pace but allows other students who have a better understanding to encourage and help those who do not. When peers at a young age help you, this helps develop their social and group work skills.

Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Mary Bartz

I teach kindergarten and this will be helpful for those who do not have their numbers from 1-20. It does keep them engaged and those who have it can be used as assistants to help others in need as long as they don't just give them the answer.


Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Stephanie Hall

I'd love to know the process.  How to introduce counting collections?  What are the procedures? 


Recommended (1)
  • Private message to wenqing wu
love the idea
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Veronica Horton
I love the idea of having collections for counting. Please tell how you decide how many objects to put in each collection? Do you use amounts up to 20 with 4 year olds? Do you use 10 frames for the children to organize as they count?
Recommended (0)


  • Exploring Numbers with Counting Collections Transcript

    Natalie: (Music) My name is Natalie Gazzola. I'm a preschool teacher, and I work at

    Exploring Numbers with Counting Collections Transcript

    Natalie: (Music) My name is Natalie Gazzola. I'm a preschool teacher, and I work at Felton State Preschool. (Music) Today's activity is Counting Collections. Throughout this activity, children are practicing counting skills that they've acquired or are acquiring and developing.

    "You guys ready to go to Counting Collections?"

    Children: "Yeah"

    Natalie: "Yes, okay. Go ahead and walk to your table, get your chair... "

    In today's activity my co teacher [inaudible 00:00:32] Munese and I give children these little facts full of manipulatives. Each one has its own quantity, and the first task is to tell me how much you have in your collection.

    "Alright, you okay, you count for me?"

    Children: "One [crosstalk 00:00:46]... you're gonna, you're gonna do this."

    Natalie: So children take them out, organize them, and count them.

    Juarez: "...five, six, seven, eight, nine."

    Natalie: "How many do you have?"

    Juarez: "Nine."

    Natalie: "Nine."

    Miss Munese and I are observing the children, and based on what they're doing, we ask follow up questions.

    "Which of your groups has the most."

    Juarez: "The purple."

    Sophie: "I'm done teacher."

    Natalie: "The purple? How do you know, has more?"

    Children: [crosstalk 00:01:11]

    Natalie: With Counting Collections, once you get started it becomes part of your routine that is the same yet different every time I do it, because the kids don't get tired of it.

    "Can you count yours again for me?"

    Juarez: "One, two, three..."

    Sophie: "Do it like that?"

    Juarez: "...four, five, ..."

    Sophie: "Put that one on the next one?"

    Juarez: "...six, seven."

    Natalie: "If you, can you give me two?

    Juarez: "No, asi no."

    Sophie: "I count them."

    Natalie: "Okay, how many do you have left?"

    Juarez: "One, two, three, four, five."

    Natalie: "So how many keys do you have?"

    Juarez: "Five."

    Natalie: "Five. If I give you one more, how many do you have?"

    Sophie: "Twelve."

    Juarez: ", two, three,..."

    Sophie: "There's twelve. [crosstalk 00:01:47] Teacher there's twelve. He said, [crosstalk 00:01:49] he said six keys."

    Natalie: It's always a challenge, because you have children that are applying very basic needs in regards to their math skills, and there's other children that have developed a much greater understanding of math. And they can be exactly the same age, and you're trying to make sure you address all their needs.

    "Sophie, can you do me a favor? Can you come and work with Penelope? Can you help her count her collection?"

    One of the strategy I use is to help their peers and to model for their peers, and they can support each other.

    "So maybe you can give her suggestion of how she can move them. [crosstalk 00:02:31] And then, are you ready Enen? Alright, let's count together. Can you count with me?"

    After that, we give them a piece of paper, and we ask them to represent their collection. And on each paper, the goal is that the children show us how many objects they had in their collection now on paper.

    Juarez: "We said six keys."

    Sophie: "One, two, three, four, five... but he said it like fast."

    Natalie: "He counted really fast? Did he count accurately? Did he get the right answer? [crosstalk 00:03:01]

    Sophie: "I don't know."

    Natalie: "Can you double check?"

    Sophie: "One, two..."

    Natalie: "Okay, can you represent for me?"

    Sophie: "...five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve."

    Natalie: "Was Juarez correct? Yes he was. How many do you have?"

    Sophie: "Twelve."

    Natalie: "Can you double check and make sure you have twelve tallies representing the twelve spoons?"

    Sophie: "[crosstalk 00:03:24] twelve."

    Natalie: "Do you have twelve on there? Okay. Oh you traced each one huh? So how many do you have on your paper."

    Sophie: "One, two, three, four five ..."

    Juarez: "Two."

    Natalie: Learning about counting collections, really taught me to stop and observe and build on what each child has. And it's taught me that not all skills come in a certain order. I've learned that these skills are being acquired as they are learning, and all these skills come at different times and different orders, so I don't limit the kids. I give them these objects, and let me see what they can do.

    "How many did you put?"

    Penelope: "One, ... [crosstalk 00:04:03] two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight."

    Sophie: "Teacher, he's..."

    Natalie: "Okay, let's count together. Okay, ready? One..."

    Penelope: "two..."

    Natalie: Looking at where I started in the year with the kids and where we are now, Penelope comes to mind. Penelope had a very difficult time keeping track of her collections and even counting by row. And there's times where she still slips here and there with the number, but with a simple follow up question, she can demonstrate she can count one to one.

    "Can you count one by one?"

    Penelope: "One, two, [crosstalk 00:04:41] three, four, five..."

    Sophie: "Teacher, she's done teacher."

    Penelope: "...six, seven."

    Sophie: "Teacher she's done."

    Natalie: "How many do you have?"

    Penelope: "Seven."

    Natalie: "Seven, you have seven cubes. Thank you Penelope."

    She's come a long way. She's one of the younger kids in our class, so to see her develop that way is amazing.


    Sophie: "This is five, and this is two."

    Natalie: After they've represented, we ask more follow up questions to make sure that the number is accurate.

    "How did you represent them? Circles, okay, so how many circles do you have on your paper?"

    Penelope: "One, two, [crosstalk 00:05:23]"

    Natalie: ... and of course what the children produce varies. And the follow up questions that we ask are based on what the children are doing, and where each one is at.

    "How can we check to make sure that we have the right amount from here to here. [crosstalk 00:05:44] You did all of that? Between this one and this one, this group and this group, which one has more."

    Children: "Both of them, both."

    Natalie: " that means they're..."

    Children: "Tied."

    Natalie: "They're tied, right. It's the same amount, so they're equal."

    I've applied a lot of the things that I've learned through Counting Collections into my teaching just in general, but I think that the biggest thing that I've taken away is that there is no limit, there is no place to stop. As long as I do it consistently and continue to ask follow up questions the kids are engaged, and if they're engaged in something you get to learn so much from them. (Music)

Related Blogs


Natali Gaxiola


TCH Special

Webinar / Coaching / Assessment

TCH Special

Webinar / Engagement / Distance Learning

TCH Special
57 MIN

Webinar / Engagement / Distance Learning

TCH Special
54 MIN

Webinar / Class Culture / Engagement