In each Power-Start! Mathematics tool bag is a set of 20 poker chips of two colors. There is also a file folder. One side of the open file folder is a place to lay poker chips down to be counted and the other side is used to hide the chips after they are counted. A child’s memory of how many chips are hidden within the folder confirms understanding and application of the very important cardinality principle. Counting poker chips can also give a child practice for improving counting accuracy — not skipping any chips and not counting any twice. To review how-tos about power-chats and ideas for making this activity engaging and mentally stimulating, go to my page It’s 2018…Start Now! Also, if the child wants to take the activity in his own direction or does not seem interested, then go with the flow.
Counting 5 or Fewer Poker Chips
Start by placing fewer than 5 poker chips on one side of the folder. Many times children can accurately tell you how many there are without counting, which is great. Ask the child, “How did you know there were five?” Talk about different arrangements. For example, if there are 4 chips, talk about 2 and 2 arrangements and also 3 and 1.
Counting Accuracy above 5
Accurate counting above 5 means coordinating one finger point at one object and saying the number name. This takes practice! Sometimes children will just guess if they decide that counting this many will be an effort but encourage them to count. Help children not to skip any chips or count any twice. Count them yourself to model careful counting. Offer abundant praise when it is earned for a child’s care in the process, “I like how you are being careful not to skip chips or count any twice” or “I love how you are trying so hard to do your best counting!” Here is a sequence of possible hiding tasks which teach counting, cardinality, addition, and subtraction.
Counting from 1 to 20 and Other Ideas
- Lay out the chips randomly and encourage the child to more them or line them up to count.
- Ask the child to count out a certain number of poker chips from a pile and place them on the folder.
- Arrange the chips in interesting patterns: patterns on dice; square numbers (4, 9, 16) or triangular numbers (3, 6, 10, 15) or decompositions ( two lines of 4 and 3 for a total of 7)
- Arrange in groups of 5 and 10 to introduce a subsequent counting milestone, the idea of 10 as a unit.
Similar activities to those suggested here can of course be done with counters, coins, tiles or even flat geometric shapes. The objects can then just be covered with a piece of paper or a book if a file folder is not available.