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One-To-One Correspondence For Preschoolers To Improve Math Skills

One to one correspondence is a very important skill to teach to your pre-schooler. Educators catering to children between the ages of 3 and 5 believe that 1:1 correspondence is the foundation for all the mathematical and counting skills that come after it. Once the kids have mastered one-to-one correspondence in math,  they will soon be savvy with functions like adding, subtracting, finding one more and less, and lots of other concepts.


Thus, this is an important article for children, parents and teachers. At first, formal names of concepts like 1-to-1 correspondence’ can seem quite intimidating. However, after reading this article you will discover that it is a simple yet important skill to understand, and a fun one to teach and learn too.


What Is One To One Correspondence? 

One to one correspondence is the skill of counting one object as you say one number. For example, if you are counting objects, you point at the first item and say ‘1’, then point to the second and say ‘2’ and so on. In other words, one-to-one correspondence is when a child is able to count rationally – by assigning one number to each item, in the correct sequence. It can be defined as counting objects reliably, one at a time, and giving a total value to answer the question ‘how many?’ 


Four Counting Principles To Grasp 1 to 1 Correspondence  

Following are the four principles that will help children with counting one to one correspondence.

  1. Each object counted can only be assigned one number name. Eg, one, three, five.  
  2. Number names must be used in a fixed order. Eg, one, two, three, four, five.  
  3. It doesn’t matter which object is counted as the first object, or the last object. There will always be the same number of objects.  
  4. The number name assigned to the last object counted tells you how many objects there are in total. 

Why It Is Important Learn About One-To-One Correspondence For Children? 

One-to-one correspondence is an important math skill that students learn in their early education. It involves learning how to count a group of objects by assigning one number to each object and only counting each object once. It’s typical for students to touch these objects or move them into a different pile as they count them one by one, and develop an understanding of the question ‘how many objects are there?’. 


Learning about one-to-one correspondence will help your students to develop an understanding of number values, as well as that when counting objects, each object can only be counted once and associated with one number. They will also learn that when counting objects, the number that is associated with the object that is counted last also tells us the total amount of objects that there are. There are four main counting principles for your students to remember when learning how to count objects. You’ll find these listed below. 

When Do You Start To Teach 1 to 1 Correspondence To Your Child? 

Students should start learning how to count reliably using one-to-one correspondence from an early age, in preparation for starting kindergarten. Students will learn about one-to-one correspondence in two main ways during their early years: explicit learning and incidental learning. 


Children will naturally be exposed to opportunities in their daily life that will help them learn that mathematics is rooted in real-life scenarios. They will experience one-to-one correspondence in many play and everyday scenarios. However, they may not be aware that they are engaging in 1:1 correspondence. 

When children can count to probably at least 5 by rote, then they are ready to start practising 1-to-1 correspondence in an explicit way. But remember that this will not happen overnight! It is more of a process than an event. 


How Does One-to-One Is Differ From Rote Counting? 

Rote counting involves being able to say the names of all the numbers in the correct order, such as one, two, three, four, five. 

In rote counting, children don’t need to count anything specific. They are simple learning how to say the names of numbers in the form of a recitation. The most important aspect here is to be able to remember and recollect the correct order of all numbers.  


This knowledge forms a basis of learning how to count with one-to-one correspondence. The difference between the two is, that in one-to-one correspondence, the numbers are assigned to objects that are being counted. The result of the counting answers the question “how many?” 

What Should Your Child Know Before They Learn 1 To 1 Correspondence? 

While one-to-one correspondence is a basic math skill that students learn in quite early on in preschool, it is imperative that they have developed certain skills before they are able to understand this topic. Most importantly, the ability to rote count is necessary for students to have before they move on to counting objects with one-to-one correspondence. In their language comprehension, too, it would work well if they understood the concepts of “how many” and “one more” when they start learning about one-to-one correspondence. 


Activities And Games That Will Help Your Child To Learn One To One Correspondence 

Teaching one to one correspondence becomes more effective with games and activities. Children will be able to grasp the concept better and will get to practice its applications in various scenarios.

1. Count Steps

One of the easiest way to for children to practice one-to-one correspondence is by counting steps. When climbing up and down the stairs, encourage them to count with one-to-one correspondence. Give them a fun task to count how many steps there are up to their floor. Along with one-to-one correspondence, this will also be an opportunity to get some physical activity done by choosing stairs over lifts. 


2. Wind Up Your Toys

When its time to wind up their toys at the end of the day, encourage your child to count as they put away pieces of blocks back in the basket. This will be a good practice in one-to-one correspondence and will also have your child enthusiastically participating in cleaning up. 

3. Involve Your Child In Cooking

Does your recipe require cups of water? Ask your child to pour the water by counting each cup, till they count the 10th cup. Supervise them during this activity to ensure they don’t come in close contact with a hot pot and avoid any splashes of hot water. 

4. Nature Walks

One of the best things about nature is abundance! Ask your child to count any fascinating thing, like the number of trees, bushes, etc.  

5. Encourage Collecting

Introduce your child to the hobby of scrapbooking collectables like stamps, postcards, comic books, miniature cars, Beyblades, baseball cards… the options are endless. Let your little collector count how many they have in their collection as a way to practice 1:1 correspondence and to pick up a new hobby and value its significance. 

6. Count Your Fingers

A seemingly simple activity, this is the perfect one for kids that are just learning to count. Just open up your palms and start counting. Make sure all of them are intact… 😄 

7. Board Games

Board games are a great way to incidentally practice one-to-one correspondence. Rolling the dice and moving the piece a certain number of steps forward, is a great example of one-to-one correspondence, with each step assigned a number progressively. Subtle learning while playing, isn’t it fun?!

8. Count Things In Books

Most children enjoy using books as for learning. They really focus their full attention, especially on picture books. If your child has started learning how to read, you can encourage them to spot certain words or letters and count how many they can find. If pictures are more appealing to them, you can ask them to count elements like the number of clouds, birds or flowers throughout the book. As your child counts while reading, it improves their memory by recalling which was the last number they counted and from where they picked up. It also encourages their love for reading and improves their concentration and observation.  

9. Exercise Time!

It’s time to engage those large muscles of your little one’s body while also practising this simple math skill. Choose a simple movement like jumping jacks, burpees, skip hopping, rope jumping or simply hopping on one leg. But while performing the action, make your child keep a count of the repetitions by counting with one-to-one correspondence. Make this a competitive activity by keeping a timer of a minute and seeing who gets the maximum number of repetitions done within the time limit. 

10. Table Layout

Let your child lay out the dinner table for the family. While counting the number of plates they lay on the table, they will get a chance to practice 1:1 correspondence as well as learn the important value of helping with chores.

11. It’s Laundry Time!

Involving your child in household chores can have many benefits. One of them is getting to practice counting with one-to-one correspondence. Does your washing machine have a capacity of 30 pieces of clothing? Ask your child to empty the laundry bin to load the washing machine while counting each piece upto 30. A practice session in math or a lesson in responsibility? This activity is both, and more!  

12. Counting Rhymes

Counting rhymes are a great practice for learning one-to-one correspondence. Add finger play to the mix and you have got a fun activity for your child. Here is an example of a rhyme that your children can say while counting on one finger at a time, to learn one-to-one correspondence counting till 10: 

One, Two, Three, Four, Five
One, two, three, four, five,
Once I caught a fish alive,
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
Then I let it go again.
Why did you let it go?
Because it bit my finger so.
Which finger did it bite?
This little finger on my right. 

Important Tips To Learn 1 to 1 Correspondence 

When teaching your child any new lesson or concept, make sure that you make it interesting for them and don’t stress about how quickly they grasp it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make learning effective for them. 

  1. It is a long process so be patient! 
  2. Link counting to reality as much as possible 
  3. Make it multisensory – use songs, chants, movements and anything you can think of.
  4. Model as much as possible 
  5. Teach them strategies like pointing, and taking it slowly and arranging the objects in a straight line to make it easier to count.

Enjoy this new skill with every opportunity you get, as numbers are all around you and everything that you see can be a chance to practice counting reliably with one-to-one correspondence.

Also Read:

How to Teach Your Child to Read
Easy Ways to Teach Your Child Basic Counting
How to Teach Backward Counting to Kids



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