Counting to 100: First Steps in Math

First graders will become fluent at counting to 100 in many different ways, including skip counting. All the other math areas build on this important skill.

What Kids Need to Learn

    Counting to 100 On Fingers
  • counting by ones up to 100, starting with any number (ex: 58, 59, 60...)
  • counting backwards starting with any number under 100 (ex: 27, 26, 25...)
  • reading and writing numbers to 100
  • reading and using ordinal numbers up to 10 (third, fourth, fifth, etc.)
  • using a hundreds chart to count up by 10s, starting with any number less than 10
  • counting to 100 by 2s, 5s, and 10s

Putting the Math in Context

In kindergarten, children learned to recognize numbers to 100 and accurately count up to 30. They also learned the meanings of "first, second and third".

In first grade, kids will do counting to 100 or backwards from 100, and skip counting by 2s, 5s, or 10s. They will also use ordinal numbers up to 10, identify place value of 10s and 1s, and read and write numerals to 100.

In second grade, children will count, read, and write numbers to 1,000 and will identify the place value for each digit.

Why It's Important

Counting Activities Counting does not end in kindergarten. First graders are still developing counting concepts, especially as they relate to larger numbers. They still need lots of experience counting with objects as they learn to skip count, count backwards, and work with higher numbers. Counting skills will provide the foundation kids need for addition and subtraction, and skip counting will lay the groundwork for later multiplication.

Math Challenges Kids Might Face

  • Counting backwards is tricky to master. Give children lots of opportunities for practice and plenty of encouragement.
  • Many kids have a tendency to mix up written numbers like 26 and 62. This is a sign that they are weak in their understanding of place value.
  • Just because a child can skip count by rote, do not assume he understands the concept. Some children, when asked to count out pennies by 2s, will count out 2 pennies, then add 4 more pennies, then 6 more, and so on. Be sure to give opportunities for physically demonstrating the skill, and not just focus on verbal counting skills.

Math Help That Could Make the Difference

  • To help kids understand the concept of skip counting, give lots of practice adding pairs. Count by two's to add: shoes, eyes, socks, etc. To practice counting by 5s, use five-pointed stars, hands, or nickels. Dimes are a great help in counting by 10s.
  • Use a hundreds chart to practice counting to 100, and to help children connect skip counting to written numerals.
  • Giving kids plenty of help with place value will help them understand and use numbers from 11-100.
  • Introduce counting activities that target many different learning styles. Get kids' whole bodies involved with this great song:

  • Practice, practice, and practice. Count anything and everything. Count forwards, count backwards, and see how high you can go. Take advantage of first graders' love of having MORE!
  • If they play with it, they will remember it. Counting is one of the easiest math skills to incorporate into kids' games and play time. Take a look at these fun counting activities and counting games to get you started.

Whiz Kids

If a child is counting to 100 and continuing on to higher numbers with no problem, or generally just acting bored with simple counting activities, create special challenges. How fast can he count backwards from 100? How far can she count by 2s in one minute? Want to try counting by 3s?


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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
~John Dewey