How to Teach Kids How to Count Backward

By Kathryn Rateliff Barr
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Some kids have difficulty with the concept of counting backward. However, with frequent practice, the skill can become as simple and fluid as counting forward. Once your child accurately counts forward to any number, such as 1 to 10, or to 15, you can work backward-counting into games or math activities. For example, have your child jump from a crouch to a leap, blasting off when she reaches zero, or tossing a ball. .

Step 1

Create a large number strip with numerals from zero to 10 placed in ascending order, either hand-numbered or computer-generated, or by using number cutouts. Utilize construction paper, tag board or other brightly colored paper for your number strip to make it easy to see and attractive to the eye. In preparation for future activities, print additional strips of 10 numbers each, such as 11 through 20, 21 through 30 and so forth until you reach 100.

Step 2

Place the number strip where your child can see it and have her count off the numbers forward. Congratulate her if she gets them all correct, or let her try again a few times until she does it correctly.

Step 3

Challenge her to name the numbers in reverse order, pointing to each number in order as she identifies it. Say the numbers with her if he has difficulty with the task the first few times through.

Step 4

Utilize the musical scale to sing higher when counting forward and lower when counting backward to reinforce that the numbers go up or down as she counts. Sing it slowly first then a bit faster each time you sing the sequence forward and backward.

Step 5

Point to any number on the number strip and ask your child to name the next number down, moving from one number to the next until your reach zero.

Step 6

Have your child repeat the exercise without looking at the number strip, once she can accurately count up and down utilizing the strip.

Step 7

Reinforce the skill in various ways, such as singing songs like “5 Little Monkeys” and “99 Bottles of Milk in the Fridge.” Start a game at the end and have your child move backward to the beginning, using dice to determine how far to move. Count the number of animal or fish crackers you give her and have her count backward as she eats each one.

Step 8

Add additional numbers as she masters each group of 10. Go from 1 to 20 and then back down once she has mastered 1 through 10.

Step 9

Challenge your child to skip-count forward and backward using the same technique, starting with counting by 2’s, 5’s or 10s. Encourage your child each time she masters a level.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.