How to Teach Skip Counting

According to the Common Core, second grade students need to be able to skip count by 5s, 10s, and 100s by the end of the school year. Mastering this skill not only sets them up for success in third grade when they learn multiplication, but also throughout their education and adulthood. Read below to learn more!

This blog post will...
  • explain why it is important to teach skip counting
  • identify what students need to know about skip counting
  • provide a list of common misconceptions students have around skip counting

You should always provide your students with a purpose for learning. This can be done by explaining to them why skip counting is important and giving them examples of how we use skip counting in the real world.

Skip counting is counting forward or backward by a number other than one.  We most commonly skip count by 2s, 5s, 10s, and 100s. It is important because it is a foundational skill for number sense, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Relating the concept to your students’ own real-life experiences makes their work more interesting and meaningful. Real world examples of skip counting include telling time, counting money, and scoring in basketball. I encourage you to create a skip counting anchor chart with your students and record these examples and more.

Essential understandings, also known as enduring understandings, are the big ideas we want our students to master. They help you focus your teaching on what you want your students to know, understand, and do. These “big ideas” derive from standards and serve as the foundation for designing all of your skip counting lessons and activities.

In first grade, students should be able to...

  • understand the relationship between counting and addition and subtraction.
  • apply counting on and counting back strategies to solve addition and subtraction problems.
  • count to 120, starting at any number less than 120.

In second grade, students should be able to...

  • count within 1,000.
  • skip-count by 5s, 10s, and 100s.

In third grade, students should be able to...

  • understand the relationship between skip counting and multiplication and division.
  • apply skip counting to solve multiplication and division problems.

In order to effectively teach your students about skip counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s you must anticipate, identify, and correct and misconceptions or misunderstandings they have developed. To help you, I have listed some of the most common skip counting misconceptions your students are likely to make.
  • The student does not understand what the numbers mean and can only skip count when starting at the number he or she is counting by. (Example: A child can skip count by 5’s when he or she starts at 5, but not when he or she starts at 15.)
  • The student does not have an understand of what skip counting is. (Example: A child can skip count by 10s but cannot apply it to a real world math situation.)
  • The student does not understand that skip counting is related to counting a quantity. (Example: A child is counting objects using skip counting but the numbers and objects do not match up.)
  • The student thinks that you can only skip count forward. (Example: A child was asked to skip count by 2s backwards starting at 24. He or she began skip counting forward starting at 24.)
  • The student thinks that skip counting backwards ends at 0. (Example: A child was asked to skip count backward by 2s starting at 6. He or she says 6, 4, 2, 0… That’s it!)

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