number boxes 2.0

number boxes 2.0

It’s so important for kids to practice one-to-one correspondence with counting, and there are about 60 million ways of doing it.

Whether it’s as simple as singing One, two, buckle my shoe as we’re putting on our kids’ shoes in the morning or counting as we put down each kiddo’s cereal bowls at breakfast, counting needs to be something we incorporate into our every day, as often as possible.

The more they see it, the more they practice it, and the more they hear it, the more likely it’ll stick.

And for kiddos who love stickers and who can sit for a bit of time, Number Boxes are always one of my favorite, totally-on-a-whim counting activities to throw in the mix now and again.

  • Number Boxes 2.0: An oldie but a goodie–Number Boxes are so simple but so helpful for little guys.

On any nearby piece of paper, you can create a Number Box, and you can count with anything on hand–stickers, stamps, pennies, M & M’s, Cheerios, whatever.

Cora has been working on Number Boxes this week during homework time, just moving along, slow as molasses, counting, sticking, and counting some more.  She does a few numbers, then sets it aside, choosing instead to do watercolors or beads or to finish a picture.

But this is an important activity for her–one that I’ve insisted she work on every day–because I know she’s a quick counter; she doesn’t always give each object a number like she should.

Her page has eight spaces on the front and two spaces on the back, so her Number Boxes total 10.


Hip, hip, hoooray for Maddy who came to Cora’s counting rescue!


As I got her started, I said, Okay, Coco Beans, today you are going to show us how great you are with numbers.  On this sheet, there are eight boxes with two more on the back to total ten boxes.  Here is a huuuuuge tray of Foamies. Today you’re going to put the correct number of Foamies in each box.  For example, here’s number one, so I will stick one Foamie in the box. How many would I put in here (pointing to the two box)?

Right two! See? You totally are a number expert.  You work hard at this while I help Maddy with her work, and if you need help, let me know.

What Cora ended up doing was counting the first row carefully and then throwing down anything for the second row.  So her second row needed a little bit of attention, which Maddy gladly gave her while I was working with Owen on the floor.

What Maddy would rock out carefully, deliberately, meticulously in 20 minutes, and what Owen would slam through haphazardly in seconds, Cora has spread out over about three days. So finally, yesterday, she finished her Number Boxes, but I can honestly say she didn’t touch number nine.

And really, looking back, I should have sat with her as she did this and walked her though each number in sequence. I’m trying!

Thank goodness for Cora, or this teaching and parenting gig would really be a breeze. She keeps me on my toes, trying new things and stretching my brain for strategies that will (hopefully) fit her just right.


My tiny one would much rather have Maddy be her teacher than me, so I suppose it’s still a win-win; Maddy really loves helping, and Cora really loves having Maddy help. And we all know what they say about the benefits of re-teaching. . .

In fact, The Reading Teacher had two articles in the May 2011 issue that emphasized the positive aspects of Literature Circles and reciprocal teaching, two teaching methods that encourage cooperation, conversation, reflection, and community.  Obviously, these two teaching methods are quite different from Maddy helping Cora with her Number Box, but one researcher’s observation that “when learners studied themselves, their own work, and that of their classmates, they deepened their understanding of the content and the processes under exploration” (Heidi Mills & Louise Jennings, (Talking About Talk: Reclaiming the Value and Power of Literature Circles”) seems to be true in our situation.

If Maddy notices Cora needs help, jumps up to give her a hand, and takes a second to explain the simple process of counting out the correct number of stickers for each Number Box, not only will Cora better understand the concept, but so will Maddy.

Sure, we should probably have taken a minute to reflect on the whole process but we didn’t.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Want some more Number  Box excitement? Try the Original Number Boxes post or Backyard Number Boxes for springtime fun!




  1. says

    Love this! My little girl is always too quick to count and frequently makes mistakes. I live how easy this can be — no special tools required! Thanks for adding another great learning activity to my toolkit!


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