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MCSA Lockdown Tip 62

MCSA Lockdown Tip 62

Lockdown Day 62 – One to one Correspondence

Numeracy and Arithmetic

Children love to count. Once they have ‘discovered’ counting, they count everything from the steps it takes to get from the kitchen to the bedroom, to how many pieces of apple are in their lunchbox.

Young children however often learn to count by rote. They learn to say the sequence of the numbers by singing a song, or by being ‘drilled’ to memorise the sequence of these words. Often, parents bring their children to school being very proud that their child can ‘count to 20/50/100’. Most of the time, what this means, however, is that the child has been able to memorise the words. It does not mean that the child has understood what each word actually means or symbolises. Children who are able to rote count often do so without having an understanding of ONE-TO-ONE CORRESPONDENCE.


One-to-one correspondence is when children begin to assign one number, and only one number, to each object as they count. This is later extended by the child developing the ability to match an object to the corresponding numeral and to recognise that numerals are symbols that represent a quantity. A child that understands one-to-one correspondence knows and understands that five biscuits = 5, or that three cars = 3.


Establishing whether children have grasped the concept of one-to-one correspondence can be done by asking them to count a variety of objects. Start with a maximum of ten objects. If the child is able to coordinate their counting with the objects by pointing to them accurately as they count, they have an understanding of one-to-one correspondence. However, if they cannot accurately align their counting with the touching of the objects, then further practice is required.


Children often first develop a sense of one-to-one correspondence by experimenting with objects that require matching one object to one space. This can be practised by:

  • Asking the child to practice putting eggs (hardboiled might be a good idea!) in and out of an egg carton. Six eggs = one egg per space.
  • Engaging the child in laying the table for meals. Each person at the table needs, one plate, one fork, one knife, one glass and one napkin.
  • While baking, asking the child to line each space in the muffin tray with one paper baking cup.

It is also important to discuss one-to-one correspondences that occur naturally, and meaningfully, in the life of young children.

  • When putting on pants, discuss that the child has two legs and that there are two holes in the pants. One hole for each leg.
  • Winter gloves have five openings and spaces for five fingers. One hole and space for each finger.

A number of easy games can be played to further develop the idea that numbers correspond to specific quantities.

  • Roll a die (or two dice if the child can count to 12) and ask the child to count the dots of the die and perform a corresponding action. For example, the child rolls six and is asked to jump six times.
  • If the child can recognise numerals, draw a number of chalk circles on the ground with numbers in them. Give the child an action to perform in each circle. For example, the child is in a circle with the number 8 and has to clap eight times.

Create many opportunities for children to practice one-to-one correspondence with loose objects.

  • Give the child a bowl of dried beans and a deck of playing cards. Ask the child to pick one card and proceed to cover each symbol (heart, diamond, club or spade) on the card with a bean.

Create different sorting games using a muffin tray.

  • If the child cannot yet recognise numerals, give the child a bowl with various quantities of different objects (beans, pebbles, small pompoms etc). Place one object into each space in the muffin tray and ask the child to match the rest of the objects in the bowl to the objects in the muffin tray.
  • If the child can recognise numerals, then place a piece of paper into each round of the muffin tray with a numeral written on it. Give the child a bowl with (for example) 1 stone, 2 leaves, 3 paper clips, 4 beans, 5 buttons.. etc. Ask the child to sort and count the objects and place them into the corresponding numeral in the muffin tray.

No worksheet can replace this concrete experience!


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