You would think that wouldn’t be so hard, right? I mean, this class counts the days of the month, every day, in English and in Spanish. They count the days we’ve been in school, every day. Okay, so lately I’ve been lazy and we’ve been counting by tens to 80, and then by ones after that (it takes a long time for this class to count to 80). But we do count, every single damn day.
As I mentioned, Monkey can’t count to two, let alone three. He’s a special case, so I’m not going to beat myself up about that. But several other kids were having trouble with it yesterday and today, and it is blowing my mind and bumming me out.
There is a boy in my class whose mom likes to dress him in really preppy clothes; he turns up each day all crisp and cute in a colorful polo shirt, ironed jeans, and bright white tennies. He loves to play games; if the Matching Game were high-stakes poker, he’d be rich. Let’s call this boy Squirrel; he’s quick and smart and tricky. Squirrel and two other boys sat down at the games table with me at centers time yesterday to play a makeshift board game I will call “Count to Three!”
I set out plastic color tiles in a long meandering path across the table, gave each of us a plastic teddy bear counter in a different color, and got out my number cube. We started at one end of the path, took turns rolling the cube (which had only the numbers 1, 2, and 3 on it), and moved our bears as many spaces as the number said.
This was much harder said than done. Repeatedly, one of the children would roll a 3, crow “three!” excitedly, and then move their bear two spaces. Or roll a 2 and move ahead one space. Or they would count the space they were already on, or they wouldn’t count the tiles that already had a bear on them…
Squirrel alone could do it. However, his luck ran out and he rolled mostly ones. Since he could tell he wouldn’t win, he gave up halfway through and moved to the writing center, leaving me to ponder how I could have failed so miserably in the simple job of teaching all my students to count to three.