Welcome to our crash course: all about one to one correspondence for preschool and kindergarten students. We will teach you what this math lingo means, how to ensure your little ones master it, and multiple ways to help your students practice. It’s just one stop on the larger journey of number sense!
Interested in more learning around developmental math concepts and teaching math to preschoolers and kindergarteners? Head over to the All About Subitizing and learn about developing those quick response math skills!
One to One Correspondence
Whether you are a new teacher or a seasoned veteran, learning about developmental preschool math concepts is super helpful. Teaching math to preschoolers may seem simple, and it is! But being intentional with foundational math blocks will help young students for many years to come.
During preschool and beyond, students transition through 10 different stages of math development skills. You can think of it as a mathematical journey! Some of these skills include rote counting, one-to-one correspondence, cardinality, and conservation of number (recognizing that no matter how I arrange these counters, there are still only four).
One to one correspondence is in the middle of the journey and sets the path to learning more challenging mathematical skills.
Young children begin “counting” at an early age. My son was attempting to count at 20 months, and he would adorably reverse the 5 and 6 as he rote counted to 10. Now that he is 3.5 years old, he has rote counting mastered… but now the real mathematical work has begun.
So the question became, “How do I teach him that these numbers stand for a quantity, and that the quantity is the same no matter what types of objects I count?”
One to One Correspondence Definition
A great way to think of one to one correspondence is as the rule of counting. It’s the rule that each number translates to a specific quantity AND recognizes that numbers are a symbol to show a quantity.
This rule means that children will accurately count a quantity of objects and assign one number to each object as they count. Children who have mastered this rule will touch, move, or tag an object at the exact same time they say the number. This is no easy feat! Children who are just learning the mathematical rule of one to one correspondence will frequently count too fast or too slowly, which causes an inaccurate count.
Obviously, this rule is crucial to understanding how numbers work. We use numbers every day for things like cooking, playing, and shopping, and one to one correspondence is what helped us know how much or how many things we need.
How to Teach One to One Correspondence
Teaching one to one correspondence requires practice, practice, practice. It’s important to model counting objects frequently, counting slowly so that students can see as you move or tag each object, and then writing or identifing the numeral that matches that quantity.
Honestly, it might sound a bit boring but teaching one to one correspondence is actually loads of fun! Children learn best through play, and playing counting games that encourage children to relate the number to a quantity are a fantastic way to practice.
Preschool Counting Activities that Develop One to One Correspondence
There are so many great ways to teach preschoolers to master one to one correspondence.
Ten Frame Counting Mats
Ten frame mats are a quintessential teacher favorite for teaching preschool math. They are designed to tag multiple math skills like number sense, reading a number line, how to create a quantity (one to one correspondence), and identifying numerals.
When children use ten frames to count, they can learn that an entire ten frame has ten and half of that has five. Then, you can expand it to two ten frames to help them learn to count to 20.
For children just learning to count, it’s easiest to use a pre-filled ten frame such as our dinosaur counting mats. It comes with a set of dinosaur filled ten frame spaces.
You can show the child how to count to the desired number by slowly touching each dinosaur (or object). Then, have the child do it after you so that you can assess any areas that they might need help with, whether it’s counting or following their finger. Or just going too quickly.
As the learner progresses, you can start using blank ten frames. The frames are left open for your student or child to fill in with any manipulative that you have around. These are perfect for mini erasers, gems, pom poms, and even playdough. I personally love something that I can grab real fast that’s already in the classroom or house. Offering variety ensures that your preschoolers will be excited to use these ten frame counting mats in lots of ways!
Grab our free dinosaur ten frames for both pre-printed and blank ten frames to work on these math skills, along with more ways to interact with each number!
Learn to Count Counting Cards
Using math counting cards with lots of different themes is a great way to teach children counting, number order, number recognition, one to one correspondence, and quantity. It works like magic by helping children to learn foundational math concepts in a fun, inviting, and hands-on way! Use these cards with your favorite counters such as mini erasers, gems, acrylics, buttons, or any other object.
I love using these cards with a small group! Have students work together to place the cards in number order. Then they can count out objects to show one to one correspondence.
Grab the full set of counting cards in our store! Each theme has a card with numbers 1-24. Switch out the seasonal counting cards to keep children’s interests and to follow along with your theme. These make a wonderful addition to your preschool and kindergarten math centers!
Preschool Board or Dice Games
Math games are such an incredible way to teach children math skills. Whether you utilize cooperative math board games like Hoot, Owl, Hoot or practice turn-taking with Hi Ho Cherry O, these exciting games are ideal for teaching one to one correspondence.
Dice games are easy to prep, have endless varieties for play, and kids love them! Learning with dice is a great introduction to one to one correspondence as the die only goes up to 6. To make it even more challenging, use two dice in the game!
Utilize everyday circumstances as opportunities for children to practice one to one correspondence. Use intentional questioning to foster this math skill over time.
- How many children are sitting in the circle today?
- How many blocks did you use to make your city?
- How many apples are on the table?
- How many children are wearing blue today?
Mastering One to One Correspondence
Checking in to see if students have mastered one to one correspondence is simple and can be done in lots of different ways.
- Ask the child to count objects – if the child coordinates their counting with the objects by moving, grouping, touching, or pointing to them, they have an understanding of one to one correspondence.
- Sing a nursery rhyme or a fingerplay together and invite the child to count how many there are/how many are left using their fingers or puppets.
- Using the calendar is a great way to check for counting accuracy. Invite the child to count along with you and then use the calendar number cards to match quantities.
- Count objects into a jar or bucket.
- Make number books that model the quantity and the numeral in number order. Have it available for children to look at and count independently.
- Counting busy bags are engaging and fun for kids while encouraging one to one correspondence.
It’s important to also consider incorporating examples that occur naturally in the life of young children. You can ask, “how many children still need a napkin?” or “how many eggs are left in the carton?” Frequent organic learning experiences will help develop a variety of preschool math skills in your little ones.
We hope you have a better understanding of the importance of one to one correspondence and the variety of engaging activities available to practice this vital skill. We encourage you to make these activities a regular part of your teaching. Prepare to be amazed as you set up your little learners for mathematical success!