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One-to-One Correspondence – A Counting Fundamental


Children come to school with varied experiences related to counting. Even if young children can recite the number sequence it cannot be assumed that they can apply this knowledge to counting small sets of objects. Knowing the one-to-one correspondence principle is essential for organised, meaningful counting. This leads to an eventual ability to perform higher-level calculations (McCarthy, 2009).

Source: Origo One


One-to-one correspondence is often difficult for young children to comprehend. In Maths recognising the number “ten,” and being able to count out “ten” items are two separate skills. Linking objects with numbers enables a child to count with understanding (McCarthy, 2009).

Common errors when counting a set of items can be:

  • Skipping an item
  • Assigning more than one number word to a single item
  • Pointing to two or more items while saying one number word (Clements and Sarama, 2014)

Ways to Develop One-to-One Correspondence

Role Play

  • Setting the table – For each plate on the table the child needs to place one fork, one knife and one spoon
  • Fruit ice-cubes – Chop pieces of fruit, for example, pineapple or strawberries. Place one piece of fruit into each space in an ice-cube tray. Add water or fruit juice. Freeze.
  • Teddy Bear’s Picnic – Set out between 3 to 5 small chairs. Place one teddy bear on each chair.


  • Rhythm Movements – Children count the number of claps an adult makes. This can be the number of beats on a drum, taps on a triangle. Children count aloud and aim for rhythm.
  • Follow Me – Children make the number of movements given by an adult, for example, clap three times, hop three times, skip five times, nod six times. Children count aloud as the actions are done. 
  • Bean Drop – An adult drops dried beans into a container. As the beans are dropped the children need to count them.
  • Jumping on the Lily Pads (From Young Mathematicians)






  • Count Me – Place a group of objects (e.g.: shells, leaves, counters, teddies, boats, cars) on the table. Ask the student to count how many objects there are. Watch carefully and see if you can determine how the student decides how many objects there are (DET, accessed 11/6/2018)
  • Activities From The Measured Mom
  • Auditory Activities from https://mykidsturn.org/

Source: By the Numbers (ESSDACK)

  • Hands-on and Auditory Activities from www.raepica.com

Game Boards

PreKinders is an amazing website with free resources, not just for Maths, but also fine motor skills, literacy, science and more.

  • The following board game is easy to prepare, simple for children to understand and doesn’t require many resources.
  • Roll and Collect is from Kate in Kinder  and sourced through Teachers Pay Teachers but as a free download. There are a few different versions. The game uses a 6-sided die. This might not give the children enough turns so might need to be adapted, showing the numbers 1, 2 and 3 on two sides each.

Roll And Collect Math Center

Online Games

Ladybird Spots from Topmarks.co.uk

Gingerbread Man Game from Topmarks.co.uk

Underwater Counting from Topmarks.co.uk

Counting Fish from abcya.com

My aim is to provide free resources, where possible, that support the academic research. If you find other resources or relevant information please contact me and I’ll include it on the blog.

Thank you to all the educators who supply free resources to support teachers and their children.

Until next time,