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Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.

An Easy Way To Improve Math Fluency: Count Backward

Parents are well aware of the importance of reading fluency. However, early math fluency is equally crucial. Simply put, math fluency means fast and automatic retrieval of math facts from memory.

For young students it should be as simple as knowing the number that comes “right after,” or the one that comes “right before.” For example, if a child sees a card with the number 22, he should immediately be able to say 23 comes right after, and 21 comes right before.
Students are usually quite good at getting the number that comes right after, but often falter when asked for the number right before.

A simple way a child can become more fluent for the number right before is counting backward!

Here’s how to practice:

  • Always count over multiples of 10. By this I mean counting backward over 10, 20, 30, etc. Counting backward over multiples of 10 tends to be more challenging.
  • For a kindergarten child start with 15 and count backward to 0. When she does that with ease, start with 21 and go backward to 0, and so on.
  • For a 1st grade student, start counting backward from 25 to 0. When that is easily mastered, start in the high thirties (39, for example) and count back to 0.
  • Increase to a higher start number each time your child easily masters the lower numbers you’ve been practicing. The ultimate goal, for early elementary students, is fluent backward counting from 100 to 0.
  • Try counting down before giving her a treat, when traveling, or anytime you have a few extra minutes with your child.


Practicing this simple activity with your young student can be invaluable in promoting number fluency.

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