Counting Collections

Counting Collections is one of the most flexible routines for use both in the classroom and at home. The general routine for a counting collection is simple:

  1. Choose a collection and a partner: Collections can be pre-baggied to control the size, but they can also be “found’ collections. Toy bins, rocks, trees in the yard, fence posts, etc. are all easily accessible for counting.
  2. Estimate how many objects are in the collection. Younger students will get better at estimation with practice and counting collections are a great way for students to develop their strategies and important ideas, like the relationship between size, number and volume. Estimation strategies should be discussed during consolidation and with other activities, such as Steve Wyborney’s warm up routines Esti-Mysteries and Estimation Clipboard or Andrew Stadel’s Estimation 180 prompts.
  3. Count: It is important that the children count the collection together and not separately. This rule facilitates discussion and negotiation, which leads to more learning. If the counting is being done at home, siblings or a parent can act as a partner, but older counters must not dictate or undermine a younger child’s strategies. It is helpful to ask questions like:
    1. How are you going to count the items?
    2. What tools might be helpful? (You can offer an assortment of “tools,” such as number charts, trays, cups, number lines, egg cartons and 10 frames.
    3. Is there another way you could count? Will you get the same number if you count differently?
    4. Which way is more efficient? Which way is more accurate?
    5. I got a different number when I counted the items? How can we check? It is ok to nudge by offering a tool, asking a question or modelling by counting a different way, but resist the temptation to dictate the counting methodology.
  4. Record: Ask each child to record HOW they counted. For young children, this is as simple as drawing a picture and writing how many. There are examples on this page of how recording sheets can be varied for different purposes and grade levels. Ask:
    1. How does your picture (or equation) show HOW you counted?
  5. CONSOLIDATE LEARNING: This is the most important step of any open ended routine, task or activity. Focus on what children are learning about how numbers work, the patterns/structures of math and strategies and tools that help us. AVOID focusing only on answer or creating a hierarchy of strategies. While it is helpful for students to talk about how they select different strategies for different situations and how different strategies can be more or less efficient, it is unhelpful to create a sense that a child’s preferred strategy is “not good enough.” Consolidation can be done in small groups or whole class, depending on the situation.

There are many places to find information about, resources for and examples of Counting Collections for all students. The routine has value preK-high school.

Book: Choral Counting and Counting Collections by Megan L Franke, Elham Kazemi and Angela Chan Turrou

On the Stenhouse Site for this book you will also find a link to their free Choral Counting Tool, which I find extremely helpful for both planning Choral Counts and implementing them.

Videos: Youtube has an abundance of video examples of students doing Counting Collections both in school and at home. Angela Turrou created a video to help parents understand Counting Collections at Home. This is another youtube video I found that is really really good because it is short, clear, and provides exactly the info parents need to start out.  This other one also models the process really well for parents, but in more detail.

This is Elham Kazemi’s site (one of the Book authors).  Scroll down to Supporting ambitious instruction in elementary mathematics through school-wide professional learning.  There are videos there for choral counting and counting collections at different grade levels, which may be useful for both you and your parents.

The hashtags #countingcollections and #countingcollectionsathome are used on Twitter to share photos, videos and ideas.

Other Resources: Jen Barker’s website Meaningful Math Moments, is a great place for getting started with Choral Counting, Counting Collections and many other Numeracy Routines.

This page from Megan Franke (also an author of the Counting Collections book) has lots of video examples and information on what to look for in counting.  You may find some of it useful in supporting parent’s understandings.

Janice Novakowski has several blog posts on her website about Counting Collections. You might start with this one about outdoor collections during outdoor learning.

Recording Sheet examples: