Activity: Counting accurately, preservation of number

Resources needed:

  • Multilink cubes


  1. Show the children a group of about 25 or 26 multilink cubes and ask for some estimates of the number. Remind children that estimating is a sensible guess. Discuss some of the estimates and arrive at a consensus.

2. Count the cubes in ones and see whose estimate was the closest.

3. Show the children how you could have counted the cubes in twos, which is usually faster when counting larger numbers or amounts.

4. Remind the children of how many cubes there were. Now spread the cubes out in a long, thin line and ask the children how many there are now. Some children may think that there are more because the group looks bigger. Prove that there is still the same number of bricks.

5. Now split the group into two fairly similar amounts and ask the children how many there are altogether. Ask which group has the most and which group has the least and count them to prove this.

6. Remind the children that, even though you rearranged the bricks, the amount did not change.

7. Give each pair of children a group of bricks. They should firstly estimate the amount, and then check by counting them in ones, twos or even fives (remembering to include any remainders as they do so).8.

8. Finally, ask the children to make sticks of five, and gather these together. Count together in fives to find out how many bricks there are and then push the sticks together to form groups of ten. Now count again to verify that, although the arrangement has changed, the number remains the same.

Further Activities:

Count a wide variety of items, such as marbles, bricks, crayons, books. Show the children how to successfully count a larger group of objects by either lining them up or pushing them to one side as they count, to ensure they don’t count the same thing twice.

Give children number cards and ask them to count the correct number of bricks to go with each one.

Give the children pictures of several items to count instead of physical objects. Can they come up with ideas to help them count accurately and not count the same thing twice (perhaps crossing off with a pencil)

Give lots of opportunities for estimation, especially where larger numbers are involved.

Curriculum Areas covered:

Ensure that pupils develop confidence and mental fluency with whole numbers, counting and place value.

Count to and across 100, forwards and backwards, beginning with 0 or 1, or from any given number

Identify and represent numbers using objects and pictorial representations including the number line, and use the language of: equal to, more than, less than (fewer), most, least

Read and write numbers from 1 to 20 in numerals and words.

They practise counting as reciting numbers and counting as enumerating objects, and counting in twos, fives and tens from different multiples to develop their recognition of patterns in the number system (for example, odd and even numbers), including varied and frequent practice through increasingly complex questions.