Podcast Season 2, Episode 11: Finger-Counting Freddy: A Case Study

When asked to add two numbers, what is your child’s strategy?


Kids like “Freddy” add by always starting at 1, instead of “counting on” from one of the two numbers.


For kid’s like Freddy, there is a lack of number sense that is slowing them down and can cause bigger problems later, so it’s worth fixing now!


What worked- Asking Questions

“How many fingers are on that hand?” 


“What comes after 5?”


For a lot of kids, these questions aren’t enough because they haven’t practiced counting on so they aren’t able to.


What worked- Practice Counting On

Build into your routine regularly starting the count from numbers other than 1 and zero!


As you’re out on a walk or driving in the car, just start counting on from a different number and then stop to let your kiddo take over. “3, 4, 5…” “32, 33, 34….”  


At home, start counting on, and then mime handing the mic over to your kid for them to then continue.  Then switch and have them start and hand you the mic.


*Keep in mind that the biggest challenge in counting on for most kids is “29…” (and 39, 49, 59, etc).  I would recommend practicing this after they’re more comfortable with the easier ones, and then be sure to practice this one A LOT!  You’d be shocked how many older kids still struggle with this!


What Worked- Modeling

“7 + 2.  Okay, 7, 8, 9! 7 + 2 is 9!”


What Worked- Explicit Instruction

You can explicitly teach a child to use the counting-on strategy.  This should be a quick 5 minute lesson in which you show your child.  “I’m going to show you a way to add a little faster! Watch me.”


What Worked- Specific Practice

Once your child has learned this strategy, let them know that they are going to practice it and then  have them do a few problems on a worksheet to practice.  You can also play games instead.  I like using cards or dice to mix things up a bit.  I might roll two dice and have my child write down the numbers and then I’ll cover the die that has the higher value, encouraging them to count on from that number.  With cards, I’ll do essentially the same.  (I also might practice without writing anything down)


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