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Counting Cup

Alignments to Content Standards: K.CC.B



  • A plastic 24 ounce (or larger) cup.
  • A collection of various counting manipulatives.
  • Student booklets made from 10 sheets of plain white paper folded in half with a sheet of construction paper folded on the outside and stapled down the folded side (1 per student).
  • Large paper plates (1 per student with the student name written in the middle of the plate).


  • Place 5-10 counters in the cup. In a small group, count out the quantity in the cup with the students and write the number on a small white board.
  • Have the students use the additional counters at the table to make their own collection on a paper plate. When a student has what he or she thinks is an equivalent collection on the paper plate, he or she should count the collection with the teacher one time off the plate and then one time back onto the plate to verify.
  • Next, students draw a picture of the counters and write the number on a page in the student booklet. Students can begin the recording portion while waiting for the teacher to count with them.

Rotate students through this activity until each student has been able to count out a collection.

IM Commentary

  • The paper plate is used as an organizational tool for the students to make sure they have counted each item. Counting the items back and forth on and off the plate helps them establish the habit of moving items counted to another place as a means of keeping track. The teacher can use the plates to keep track of who was able to count the quantity accurately and who was not by sorting them into two piles.

  • Mouse Count is a great children’s book that can be used to introduce this activity.

  • The quantity in the cup should change daily. This activity is most effective if initially it is done daily with all students, then it can be done twice a week after that or added into a morning routine or job calendar.

  • If available, a classroom assistant can be used to lead this small group activity or after a few days a student can be assigned the job of leader and take on the role of counting what is in the cup with the group. However, with a student leader the teacher will still need to verify the count with the individual students.

  • Varying the counters that are used keeps the children interested in the activity. Different counters such as buttons, teddy bear counters, plastic animals or insects, two-colored counters, color tiles, or pattern blocks can be used.

  • Students who are ready to count larger quantities can be grouped and given larger quantities while students who still need practice with smaller quantities can stay in that range.


Start this activity with 5-10 items in the counting cup, as the majority of the students are able to successfully count quantities in this range. Increase the quantity until students are able to count up to 20 objects accurately.