Early Numeracy Skills

My last post highlighted an excellent article written by Constance Kamii and colleagues. Last week I “played” with line up the fives with a group of teachers and parents. Here are some of the ideas that have emerged from that “play”.

Do you see what we were lining up? Three colours is enough to start. What numbers are we using? Let’s do a flash check to be sure students know what quantity each collection represents without counting all the dots…. that is the BASIC skill we need to develop before we match symbols to the cards.


Remember you are an adult. You know the sequences. You can keep and consider more than one idea at a time in your brain. This is a skill our children develop as they practice.

Now what did we change in our lining up? Can you play this way?


If you have not read the game in my last post here is a picture of a young girl playing and the one pager that got us started. Kamii and Fives click here.

How did we change the game to arrive at this solution matrix?

In the original explanation children are encouraged to start with all the fives or all the ones.  What do you think we put down first?


1 to 5 lines

In order to end up with the solution matrix below, what do you think we put down first?

double fives lines

Play with all cards showing and consider how children organize their cards to keep track. Talk about what you are thinking, but do not tell children to think like you.


When might it be appropriate to play these versions? PLEASE NOTE when all we use is the number symbols we may be only encouraging a repeat the sequence with no meaning kind of “learning”. That is one reason I want to change up the sequences and work in alternating sequences.

mix em up lines 10 to 15


alternate 15 to 30

Rules of Engagement:

  1. This is not a competition. Do not set up winners and losers. The urge to win shuts down thinking. The fear of “losing” shuts down thinking. This is an exploration of numbers and we are looking for patterns and strategies for not missing any turns, getting the numbers in order, making the game more challenging. Explaining how we might put numbers out without following the sequence. So each turn you get to lay a card where you think it will fit in the sequence. If the red 5 is out I can estimate where the red 8 will go.
  2. Each time you play, keep track of who makes the first play and who makes the last play. Is there a connection between who starts the game and who ends the game?