Adding by one surprises (or twist to simple counting)

So many things in life we take for granted. Like, for example, adding by one.

When you think about it: counting is adding by one, adding one every time. But I was surprised, when I tried counting with my little ones adding the words “plus one equals” or “plus one makes” and then expecting them to say the answer ( which really in my head was just counting on), at first they had to stop and think about it!

That was great, actually, because it took counting from simply reciting numbers (like a poem of sorts) to developing understanding of numbers, and making that understanding more explicit.

Saying words like “plus one equals”, “plus one more makes…”. “…plus another one equals…” broke the rhythm of simple counting and made my children think about the answer. I even needed to help them at the very beginning.

Here are some more tips and variations of this simple activity:

1. Use abacus — It demonstrates the principal wonderfully!

2. At the very beginning, do this activity with Hundred Board or Number Line pointing at the correct answer

3. After you’ve done enough “addition counting” play Surprise Bag game. You will need two cloth bags with numbers in one and “addition” and “subtraction” signs or words in another. Take turns pulling out the numbers from one bag and signs from another. And adding/subtracting one to any given number.

4. Use objects for “addition counting”, let your child “double-check” the answer by re-counting the objects. It will slow down the process, but will help your child to develop valuable understanding  and the concept of increasing quantities.

5. Set out paper plates with various number of objects and let your child add one more to each quantity. It will help you to get away from always starting at one and provide challenge to seemingly routine operation.

While at first this variation of counting on will feel like slowing down of the process, remember you are helping your child to understand important principals, which will help him with mental math and mathematical reasoning down the line!