Teaching Kids to Count to 100

Teaching Kids to Count to 100 Collage

Counting to 100 is a tough skill for many little ones, but it is one that they are expected to master in the Common Core Standards for Kindergarten!  In my district, we have been expected to teach the children to do this now for many years, so this is nothing new, thankfully!  I am now down to about eight students (out of 23) that are still unable to count to 100 successfully without assistance. As I have attempted to get them to master this skill, I decided to keep track of the different things that I have done to help them and share these things with you here today.


Obviously, counting to 100 involves recognizing the hundred’s chart as one giant pattern!  And I think that a lack of solid patterning skills (and probably some general readiness issues) are what is holding back some of the children in my class from reaching this milestone.  Children also need to practice this skill with an adult in a one-on-one situation, and if parents at home forget to do this, then that can also slow things down.  So the first thing that I did was test each of the children individually to see how far they could count.  Then I sent a note home to let parents know how far their children were able to count, and asking them for some help with this.  If you would like a free download of this note in both English and Spanish, please click here.


After that, I kept the list of children’s names handy that were still struggling with counting to 100, and gave this list to a volunteer each time one dropped in.  I gave each volunteer a hundred’s chart to show the children as they were counting, so that they could see the pattern themselves close up.  The children were pulled for extra practice in this area by my volunteers and university observers.


Teaching Kids To Count To 100!

Then, at our math table one day, I had the children fill in the missing squares on a hundreds chart that I made that had blank spaces in the five’s and ten’s columns.  Over the next few days, the volunteers pulled those children that were struggling and had them try to count to 100 again while reading their charts,

After that, I had them color in the charts, using one color for the twenties, another color for the thirties, and so on. This is how I did it:  I told them to find the row with a certain number (like the row in which all of the numbers started with a three.)  I asked them to identify that row (the thirties row) and then color all of them blue.  We did that same thing for each of the rows, coloring each of them different colors.  So my objective was for them to just NOTICE where each row was, and to notice that each row all started with the same number.  And after that, the goal was to identify that row as being the row of the twenties, thirties, forties, or fifties, etc.  For a free download of this chart, please click here.


One thing that I have done each year is put some large beads on a shoelace and write the numbers on the beads from 10-100, counting by tens.  Then, I teach the children to slide one bead over each time they finish a set of ten and move on to a new set.  I think it kind of gives them a visual representation of the pattern that they are trying to give when counting to 100.

What Comes Next? Bingo Game

I also made a “What Comes Next?” bingo game!  The caller reads a series of numbers, such as “36, 37, 38, 39…..” and then the children call out, “40!” (hopefully, anyway!) and then look for number 40 on their bingo boards and cover it up.  The game is definitely a hit!  I am including it as a free download for you this week, too!  It goes along nicely with the “What Comes Next? song on the Musical Math CD/DVD, and the “Boing!” game on the Musical Math Resource CD or the individual download with that game on it.

Of course, we have been singing the 1-100 counting song from the Number Jumble DVD and the Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes CD!  Here is a video of one class from our video contest singing that song.  (The song is also on the Musical Math CD and DVD.) The “What Comes Next?” song on the Musical Math CD is also helpful in getting kids past the “nines” and on to the next group of ten.  (Example:  29, 30;  39, 40;  49-50, etc.)



The last strategy that I use when teaching the kids to count to 100 is to use their fingers to help hold their place while they are counting.  For example, I have them hold up one finger when they get to ten, and then hold up two fingers when they get to 20, and so on.  The thing that helps them the most, with this, is that they should rest the fingers that they are holding up on the edge of a table so that they don’t “lose them” as they are counting, because they tend to get distracted and then their fingers relax.  As this happens, the number that they were on disappears from their hands!  So if they rest the fingers that they are holding up on the edge of a table, it seems to help quite a bit in helping them keep track of where they were in the “Big Pattern” of counting to 100.


Once they can see that they had four fingers raised while they were on the forties, and then they had five fingers raised for the fifties, things start to make a little more sense to them- sometimes!  In the end, the children that are ready to understand this big pattern usually get it, and those that are not, simply do not!  Right now, I still have four children out of 23 that are still struggling with comprehending it, even after all of the interventions that I have done.  Of course, there is no way of knowing how much help these children are getting at home with this particular skill, and the extra practice certainly does matter!  If I could figure out a foolproof way to get parents to practice all of these difficult skills with their children, I guess I would be a hero!

Of course, a little old fashioned motivation never hurts!  Yesterday, I was testing a child that I was confident could really count all the way to 100, after all of the extra practice we had done.  But I had to pull him for testing during playtime!  Of COURSE he doesn’t want to do this during PLAYTIME!!!!  He got all the way to 79, and started to complain.  “I don’t want to!  I want to play!  I can’t do it”  I reassured him that I knew that he could do it, but he just kept on whining that he could not.  I told him that I was not going to let him go play until he at least attempted to tell the number that came next, but he still just sat there.  Then I had a brainstorm:  I whispered in his ear, “Hey!  If you count all the way to 100 for me, I’ll give you a prize out of the prize box!”  His eyes lit up.  “Really?  Right now????”  I assured him that I would let him chose a prize today, if he did it for me.  He INSTANTLY began counting at top speed, “80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85….” all the way up to 100!  I wanted to dance and scream all at the same time, LOL!  He got his prize, and ran off to play.  🙂

Teaching Kids to Count to 100 Collage FB


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Heidi Butkus

About Heidi Butkus

Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of HeidiSongs.com. Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.
  1. Did you know that your page can't be pinned- someone has reported it as spam- happened on several other things I was trying to pin today on other sites. I did report this to the Pinterest team.

  2. Your blog posts are always so content rich and wonderfully explained! I LOVE your charts and shares! Thank you for taking the time to expand on the ways you help the kids show that they have gained the skills the standards say they need to obtain!
    You're amazing!
    Swamp Frog First Graders

  3. Hi Heidi! Thanks for the 100's chart! I agree, this is a skill that has to be worked on consistently all year long. One thing I do is to keep track of how many days we are in school. We make our own "star chart" using calendar markers in the shape of stars, and write the number on the star and add it every day. Then we count it every day. One of the best things about this is the consistent practice, but also it is up there for the kids to go to whenever during the day to count on their own!

  4. I love your blog, follow you on twitter, facebook and pinterest! I have been teaching Kindergarten for several yars and using your stuff. I am moving up to first grade next year and was wondering if you have any 1st grade blogs or sites you know of that would be good for me? I know many of your things can be used at the beginning but I would love to find someone like you with first grade things. 🙂

  5. Hi, Everybody!
    The odd thing is that I just now pinned one of my pictures to my pin board on Pinterest and it worked just fine. I pinned it and then tested the link, and it worked. I don't know if they will try to remove it later or what… Hopefully not! Anyway, I was able to pin my own page, so perhaps you could repin from my pinboard to yours?
    Also, as far as the first grade blog question from Karen M., try Heidi Samuelson's Swamp frog First Graders! She posted link in the comments. It's funny that she posted a comment right after you did, because that is the first blog that came to mind when you asked! Her blog is also very content rich and she has loads of free downloads and ideas to use for first grade. Her teaching ideology is also very close to mine.
    Heidi Butkus

  6. Dear Heidi i like your idea of putting one finger out and rest on the table after every ten numbers. i also found the idea of what comes after eg: 9-10,19-20,29-30,and so on .I have recently subscribed to your mails and am enjoying them.I get children to strike out the date each day on a big numbers calender this helps them to keep track of dates and also helps in numbers in sequence and what comes after.

  7. Wow! Thank you so much for these ideas and resources. I am at about the same numbers as you for kids that can count to 100. I am so glad to have these resources for next year!!! Tina

  8. I also start my year by inviting my students to join my 100 number club. Students that say and write their numbers from 1-10, 11-20, 21-31 etc. get a sticker by their name on the wall and a piece of bubble gum. When they have mastered all the numbers to 100 they receive a prize that was predetermined at the beginning of the year by the students when we talked about joining the club. I have given trohies from the oriental trading company, a prize from our prize box,and recogniztion during chapel time with a certifcate, but of course you could decide on the grand prize that fits your students. I have done this for the last 3 years and am proud to say that I have had 100% of all my kindergarteners accomplish this task by the end of the year. It really works!

  9. My daughter is six and about to start the first grade. I have practiced counting to 100 with her every night during the school year and a few times a week this summer and she absolutely can not grasp the concept. I have tried many different ways to show her the pattern and teach her the numbers but nothing sticks in her mind, even seconds later she forgets what I said or just says a random number. She had no problem learning her letters, she can add numbers under 10 in her head, and she is advanced in art, but I can’t get her to count to 100 for the life of me. What can I do?!

  10. Hi Jacki,
    I’m so sorry to hear that your daughter is struggling so with this tricky concept! It sounds like you are a very dedicated mom and are really trying hard to help her.
    Did you try the number trick that I posted a photo of? That trick has the best track record of helping kids that I know of.
    However, I think that you need to think about a couple of different things. First of all, she may not be ready to do this, as far as brain development is concerned. This means that although she may not be ready today, she may be ready tomorrow or in six months. I have had many children that were able to grasp just about every other skill, but were not able to understand how to count to 100 during their Kindergarten year.

    Then there is another thing to consider: your child may have issues with short term memory. If she is forgetting what you just said- even just SECONDS later- this to me is a huge red flag! Now keep in mind that I am not an educational psychologist, and therefore, I am not qualified to diagnose a learning disability. But if I were you, – and if I had really, truly worked THAT hard with her to learn to count- then I would find an educational psychologist and describe the problem and see what the professional says.

    Watch out, because schools rarely are able to test kids for learning disabilities unless the child is at least TWO YEARS behind in a couple of areas. And it’s hard to be two years behind in anything when you’re in first grade! So, you may need to pay for an evaluation yourself. Then, once you have established what the real problem is, you should have an easier time figuring out what the solution is.

  11. I like your ideas and will use them to work with the kindergartener of a friend. He has not been able to count very high in the past. He IS very verbal and a great storyteller. I’m also thinking of making some number pages broken down by 5’s and 10’s. But first, I think I’ll just make a one to 100 page like you have but all filled in for him. We could cover blocks with a solid square and make guesses what comes next.

  12. Awesome post! These strategies will work great for the RTI students I work with in small intervention groups daily! Most of the students can make it up to either 29 or 39, but then get stuck with what comes next. Once they make it past these numbers, they seem fine. Hopefully this will be just what they need to make it over that hump!

  13. My son is just 4years old and i have bn struggling to teach him 1 – 50 his problem is mostly with the tens. You have to remind him. Like 29….you have to say 30 for him to cont or he calls out fifty after 29. Or threety smtimes fivety…his greatest challange id dt he mixes 15 with 50 n 13 with 30. I’ve tried most of your tricks but still doesn’t get it. Please need your advice

    • Hi Nafee,
      I think you should give him some time to grow a little more, in that case. Children often don’t gain a true understanding of this skill until they are five and a half or six years old. Just let him play and do lots of counting with him with real objects. He will get it when he is ready! Don’t pressure him.

  14. I love your suggestions for helping students learn to write to 100. This is my first year teaching kindergarten and even though the majority of the class did get this concept the few that have not leave me wondering what else I could have done to help them. This gives me some great ideas to reteach this concept and get them there. Thank you!

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