This is a blog I’ve published before, and it’s worth posting again.
As I’ve written elsewhere, I’m convinced that the skill of skip counting is an extremely important pillar in building a strong foundation for success in arithmetic and mathematics. Recall that skip counting is counting in multiples of a number – 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, etc., or 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, etc.
Skip count songs are catchy, fun songs that help plant those number-word sequences firmly into a child’s memory. We have two different skip counting albums that we carry, with different lyrics and melodies for each of the numbers from 2 through 10.
My younger son Trevor started hearing the skip count songs when he was about 16 months old. We played one in the car and the other for the house, and we played the songs a lot – in the car during trips, sometimes at bedtime, sometimes at lunch, and often simply just in the background when Trevor was playing with toys and with friends. The catchy songs started getting stuck in his head, and before he was two years old, he could count to 20 by 2’s.
Now here, the question has to be asked: did he know what he was really doing? I’d say, No – of course not. He was just repeating a series of number-words that he knew from the skip count song for 2’s. But here’s the important piece: at least that series of number-words was firmly embedded in his memory in the proper order.
He kept hearing the songs at various times throughout his day as he grew older, and over the next 3+ years, he eventually mastered all the skip count choruses from 2 through 10. When he turned 5 years old with his summer birthday, my wife Sarah took him in for his kindergarten checkup. The nurse checked his ears and eyes and throat, and then she asked him, “Trevor, can you count?”
Trevor looked at the nurse and said, “How?”
The nurse didn’t understand what he meant and replied, “Well, I’ll just make a note that he can’t count.”
Since my wife was there, she spoke up, “No, he means what he said when he said How?”
The nurse was still puzzled, and so Trevor asked her, “How do you want me to count? By 2’s or by 8’s or by 9’s or by 4’s?”
At this point, the nurse looked at him with astonishment and said, “You can count by 4’s?!”
So Trevor replied in a sing-song-y voice, “Sure – four, eight, twelve, sixteen, twenty, twenty-four, twenty-eight, thirty-two, thirty-six, forty days Goliath had to wait.”
At this point, the nurse turned back to her check-up form and said, “I’ll put down that he can count…”
Here was a young boy who had mastered all the sequences of skip counting for each of the numbers from 2 through 10 – going into kindergarten. This was a perfect set-up for success in so many areas of elementary arithmetic.
Trevor is now an adult. He didn’t go into math or a math-related field in college. But the impact of skip count songs on this guy is noticeable. He has excellent mental math skills and great number sense. From paying attention to skip count song numbers as a child, he’s also learned to pay attention to details all over the place. He’s a very savvy young man. Other things contributed to that, and listening to skip count songs was a piece of that.