Learning with counters

Main photo for Counting with counters article

Counting with counters

Counters are useful to use for patterns that help fix numbers into the child’s mind. You can also tie them into the learning with dice from a previous blog.

Some methods

Here are a few methods that you can utilise with your child or children. These are only a guide. You are limited only by your imagination. It would be great to hear from you to show how you enhanced your child’s learning through the use of counters. Leave your comments in the box below.

Use counters to build knowledge

Set out patterns in the same format as you see on a dice. This fixes a pattern to a number. Whenever the child sees the pattern, he/she sees the number. The child, at this point, starts to develop the knowledge and recollection of number patterns.


On the foundation of knowledge, start to build comprehension

Use counters to do addition sums. At first, just start off with numbers that appear on a single dice. Always make sure that the patterns replicate those that appear on a dice. For instance: 

single counter for article Counting with Counters
3 counters
4 counters

Once the child becomes proficient with the numbers of 1 to 6, then move onto 1 to 12. Again, tie in the counters with the dice.

One the child becomes proficient at addition, they can then try subtraction. Subtract some counters and ask the child how many are left. For instance, we could have 5 counters on the table. Move away three counters so that 2 are left. Just play around with the counters and have fun learning. It is at this point that the child starts to comprehend something deeper than only patterns. They are beginning to recognise the relationship between numbers. The more you play with different sums, the deeper this comprehension will set in.

Now get the child to apply the learning themselves

Once the above learning has been concreted into the child’s learning, get them to make up patterns with the counters by themselves. Ask them to make up numbers at first, such as the six pattern, or the four pattern, etc. Rather than just seeing the number, they are now creating the number in the shape of the figure. This takes the learning one small step further. They are now applying the knowledge that they have learnt.

Now the child starts to analyse


You can take the learning further by starting to ask the child to make up sums with the counters by themselves. Now, instead of you giving directions, the child is in the driving seat. They have to analyse and solve problems by themselves. You could verbally provide them with the sum, and they should be able to solve the problem themselves without your help. on the other hand, they could come up with the sum and then solve it themselves.

Creation and Evaluation


Now comes the final part of the child’s learning journey! What if the child completes a sum by themselves with the counters. Now you question whether they have got their sum correct or not. Try to put doubt into the child’s mind. You are now training them to re-evaluate their method. Once they re-evaluate their approach, and they find it correct, they will defend what they did. “I did it right Mum – Dad.” Now they are defending their position confidently. This is evaluation with assurance.


The thing to do is to be inventive. On a day to day basis, advance the tuition in small steps. You are gradually building small bridges of learning, and you will be surprised at how far your child has travelled when you look back after a few months. Simple dice rolling and playing with counters is a fun way of learning.

Throw other things into the mix. For instance, play a game of snakes and ladders or Ludo, which incorporates dice and counters. Again, this makes learning fun for the child. Learning is always easier when it is enjoyed.

The main thing is to just keep at it. You have to understand that the child is blind to all of this until the penny drops. It is essential to just keep on reinforcing all of this learning over and over. A strong foundation in basic math is the building block for later on when more complicated math is introduced.

Technical stuff

If you are completing your teacher training, or are just interested in educational theory, we’ll briefly go into the theory behind these learning steps.  In 1956, a group of educational psychologists came up with an arrangement to the steps, or progression of learning. At the head of this group was a man called Benjamin Bloom. Once the steps were formulated, the levels were called ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’.  At a later date, actually, over 40 years later, one of Bloom’s students, Lorin Anderson, rejigged the wording and made the taxonomy more up-to-date. At this time, Anderson was now at the head of another group of professionals.

The important thing to get from this information is that there are always steps to your child’s educational journey. If you try and rush this journey, you will create learning gaps which will have to be bridged at a later date. 

So go on – Let’s get learning!

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