Doggie digits: Counting the dots

McCormick Math Minute: Discover foundational mathematics for young children — in 60 seconds or less

Counting seems very simple, but it is really quite complex. Learning to count meaningfully requires learning the names of the numbers and understanding that it matters what order you say the number names as you count. It also means understanding that it doesn’t matter what order the objects are counted in, as long as each is only counted once.

[img_caption src=”×150.jpg” align=”right” alt=”Teacher and student at easel”]Daniela Giralt, a Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy preschool teacher and Early Math Collaborative participant, used Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd to help her students explore the big mathematical ideas of counting.

In the book, Dog starts his day with one black spot on his ear, but soon collects 10 different colored spots. The class followed along as Giralt read the story, adding a dot to a dog illustration when Dog gained another spot. She stopped to ask, “How many do you see now? How many do you think there will be if we add one more? How many are left after Dog takes a bath?”

Later in small groups, students rolled a die 10 times — once for each of the 10 colors — to determine how many dots of each color their dog illustration would receive. At the end, the students counted all their dog’s dots. Some children also wrote a numeral to represent the total.

“Students seemed eager to participate as actors and audience,” reflected Giralt. “They were physically and intellectually involved in representing the story while learning math concepts and vocabulary. They were able to experience math in a colorful and meaningful way that presumably will draw them again to this subject in the future.”

The Erikson Early Math Collaborative, launched with the support of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, works with teachers to bring foundational mathematics to the early childhood classroom. Learn more at