# How to Teach Skip Counting and Why it Matters

Sep 19, 2024Skip counting is more than just reciting numbers by twos, fives, or tens—skip counting is an efficient counting strategy that helps kids build a meaningful number sense. Let’s dive into how you can help your child build this skill, and how it connects to other important early math concepts.

**Efficient Counting Strategies**

Counting objects one by one can be tedious and prone to mistakes, especially when the quantity gets larger. Skip counting allows children to count more efficiently, grouping objects in a way that helps them find the total amount without losing track. Counting by twos, fives, or tens is both faster and (maybe even more importantly) encourages children to see patterns in numbers.

**Connecting Subitizing to Counting Large Sets**

Subitizing—the ability to instantly recognize how many objects are in a small group without needing to count them—is another important early math skill that even very young children can practice and learn (I’ll dive into this more in an upcoming post!). When children subitize, they can quickly “see” the number of items in small groups, typically with a limit of around 5 or 6 objects, depending on the pattern they’re in. This skill naturally extends into skip counting because kids can create groups of five objects without needing to count each object individually, and then find the total through skip counting.

**Connecting Skip Counting to Operations**

As children become more comfortable with skip counting, they are essentially practicing early forms of addition and multiplication. Skip counting is, at its core, repeated addition: when a child counts by twos, they are adding two to their total as they count. Practicing their fluency with skip counting (5, 10, 15, 20, 25) can help kids understand the concept of addition (5 + 5 = 10, 10 + 5 = 15....), and eventually, multiplication as repeated addition (5 x 3 = 5 + 5+ 5 = 15).

**How to Build Skip Counting Skills**

Here are some playful and engaging ways to get started with skip counting:

**Take turns saying numbers out loud or whispering them:**When learning to skip count by twos, you and your child can take turns saying the target number out loud and saying the “skipped” numbers more quietly: 1,**2**, 3,**4**, and so on. As you add more practice, move from whispering the skipped numbers to just pausing and thinking that number in your head. Eventually kids will be able to remember the pattern of numbers.**Use hands-on tools and movement:**Group everyday objects like toys, buttons, or snacks into sets of two, five, or ten. Count each group together out loud to make sure they have the same number, and then practice skip counting the whole set by group. To really put the skip in skip counting, use chalk or floor markers labeled with numerals and challenge kids to jump to each number as they skip count.**Practice counting groups of 10 to understand place value:**As children become comfortable with smaller numbers, move on to counting by tens. This can help kids remember the sometimes-tricky “decade” numbers like 20, 30, 40, etc. Group items like connecting blocks into groups of ten, count the total using skip counting, and emphasize how many tens are needed to create each decade number. This is a great way to introduce the idea of place value and how many tens it takes to make a new unit of one hundred!

**A Fun (Seasonal!) Book to Explore Skip Counting**

If you’re looking for a book to help introduce the concept of skip counting, check out “How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?” by Margaret McNamara. It follows a group of students as they estimate and make predictions (another great early math concept!) about how many seeds are in each of their pumpkins, and then use different skip counting strategies to find out!

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