Skip count songs draw upon children’s imaginations in memorizing basic arithmetic sequences. Kids often practice the skip count choruses while riding trikes or bikes, playing catch, having lunch, riding in a car, etc. Remember that skip counting is a skill in its own right – it’s highly connected to multiplication and addition, yes – but it is a skill separate from either adding or multiplying. Skip counting is like the skeleton upon which basic facts and number relationships are hung.

From the 3’s chorus alone, a child can connect the following basic single digit addition facts:

3 + 3 = 6;  6 + 3 = 9; 9 + 3 = 12.

But the skip count songs go beyond single digit addition facts. Embedded in the 3’s chorus are further addition facts:

12 + 3 = 15;  15 + 3 = 18;  18 + 3 = 21;  21 + 3 = 24;  24 + 3 = 27.

For a child who has memorized the skip count related fact from the 3’s chorus that 18 + 3 = 21. So 18 + 3 = 21 connects easily and quickly to 19 + 3 = 22 and with 17 + 3 = 20.

These types of connections are just as plentiful in the higher number choruses:

• the 9’s chorus: 18 + 9 = 27 connects with 19 + 9 = 28 and with 17 + 9 = 26;

• the 7’s chorus: 28 + 7 = 35 connects with 28 + 8 = 36 and with 27 + 7 = 34;

• the 8’s chorus: 24 + 8 = 32 connects with 24 + 9 = 33 and with 23 + 8 = 35.

The point here is that the skeleton of the skip count choruses is a rich, highly connected, highly ordered arrangement of numbers that is so supportive of and helpful for the mental math that kids need.

My younger son Trevor started hearing the skip count songs when he was about 14 months old. As a result of that, before he was two years old, he could skip count to 20 by 2’s, based on the 2’s skip count song. So by the time he was 5 and ready for kindergarten, he had been hearing and singing all the skip songs (from 2 through 10) for about three years.

When my wife took Trevor to the kindergarten checkup – where the nurse checks for vision, hearing, and other health issues – the nurse also asks the standard question, “Trevor, can you count?”

The nurse didn’t understand his reply, and so she said, “I’ll just put down that he can’t count.”

But my wife was there, and she said, “No, that’s not what Trevor meant.”

Then Trevor piped in, “Do you want me to count by 9’s, or by 4’s, or by 7’s, or by 8’s…”

The nurse looked at him in surprise and said, “You can count by 7’s?”

Trevor said, “Sure…” – and then proceeded to sing-say the number chorus for the 7’s song – smiling his way through it for the entire time.

The nurse looked at my wife and said, “I’ll put down in his file that he can count.”

This was a very young 5-year-old going into kindergarten – and he knew how to count by each number from 2 up through 10. Like his older brother, Trevor went on to do very well in math – it always made sense to him, and he always did work above his grade level, including algebra from an early age.

Trevor’s story is another reason why I value skip count songs so much.

My older son Brandon (now a married father) was not even six years old when he started listening to the skip count CD songs. After listening to the songs for a few weeks, he said to me, “Daddy, I noticed that 12 is on the chorus for the 2’s song, and for the 3’s song, and for the 4’s song. Then it isn’t on the chorus for the 5’s song, but then it is on the chorus for the 6’s song. Then it’s not on any other choruses after that. Daddy, should I be noticing things like that?”

I was floored. I had not encouraged or prompted him to think about this type of thing at all. And here a six year-old was talking in meaningful ways about what he would many years later realize involved terms like factor, divisor, multiples, common multiples, and divisibility. When he told me that 12 was on the chorus for the 2’s song and 3’s song, for example, that was a setup for later learning each of the following:

• 12 is a multiple of both 2 and 3

• 12 is a common multiple of 2 and 3

• 12 is divisible by both 2 and 3

• 2 and 3 are factors of 12

• 2 and 3 are divisors of 12

When Brandon mentioned to me what he had noticed, I was thrilled. Rather than laying on him a math lecture about factors and divisors, I instead just gave him a big smile and said, “I’m proud of you that you notice things like that. Keep it up.” He did keep it up, and math was always one of his best subjects. I’m convinced all that started with the fun and sensibility of skip count songs.

What makes some kids good at algebra and others not so good? I’m convinced that the skill of skip counting is vitally helpful. It’s not the only factor, but it’s a huge factor. I’ll explain.

Skip counting is counting in multiples of a number – 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, etc., or 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, etc.

I’ve got dozens of success stories of kids who’ve benefitted from learning – and practicing – the skill of skip counting. My preferred method for both learning and practicing skip counting is singing, using either of two CD’s of skip count songs (see our Math Products/Media menu for more information on obtaining these CD’s).

The skip count songs have a unique set of lyrics and melodies for each number from 2 through 10, with the chorus for each song being counting in multiples of that number.

The power of music is how most of us learned our ABC’s. Many people can hear the first few notes of a song they haven’t heard in years – and the entire song comes back to memory. Singing songs and listening to songs is simply fun for kids – and these skip count songs teach so many things about the field of whole numbers. I’ve got a couple handfuls of success stories about skip count songs that I’ll be posting in future blogs.

Here’s a question that parents sometimes ask us: “Why do you recommend math games like the ones you sell on your website?

First, some background on games – games in general usually are no fun for one of two reasons: you seldom win (it’s too hard) or you win all the time (it’s too easy).

This dynamic explains a big part of why we carry most of the particular games we offer: almost all our games provide lots of levels for playing the game. Most of our games have several dozen challenge cards that are progressively more difficult. This means that in playing these games, players reach their own level of difficulty – where the player has already met some success in the game up to that point, where the level of the game is challenging without being impossible – but at the same time where the level of the game isn’t so easy as to approach boredom.

For example, the game of Rush Hour has 40 challenge cards – ten setups each for Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert. When I play Rush Hour, I can usually do get through all the Beginner challenge cards and most of the Intermediates (so about to card #18 or so). When I get stuck on about card 18 or 19, my two sons (who grew up playing the game) are laughing at me, saying, “Dad, how can you not see what to do next? We can see it.”

The reason my much younger sons could do the game so much better than me is because when kids are young, their brains are still developing. In the case of these types of math games that we carry, these games actually stimulate brain development and other skills like visual discrimination, problem solving, persistence, creativity, and so forth.

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