Skip counting is one of the single most useful skills we can teach our students. Most state standards require students to learn to skip count by 2’s, 3’s, and 5’s. Unfortunately, this is where skip counting requirements stop in most places. This is a travesty to number sense and computation skills. It is a simple task as students are familiar with skip counting and usually have had success with it and have self-confidence that they can do it. If students can master this, 5’s and 6’s are very useful too.
When it comes to number sense, skip counting helps students notice numerical patterns. The more patterns they see in numbers the more generalizations they can make about how numbers work. This will be invaluable to students as they move on to computation. I suggest spending lots of time skip counting using number lines and hundreds charts so that the students can visualize what’s happening to the numbers. Drawing the jumps on a number line and repeating the numbers orally is an easy activity students can do independently. I use laminated number lines that students can use repeatedly with dry erase markers. Coloring in the pattern on a hundreds chart will also help them see when the patterns repeat and how often. Again, laminated charts and dry erase markers are great.
Do they notice that when counting by 5’s every digit in the ones place is used before the pattern repeats? Do they notice that only even numbers are used when counting by 5’s? What do they notice? How does it help them Encourage them to come up with an observation that no one has stated yet. Keep a running list of generalizations.
The second most valuable area that skip counting will benefit your students is in the area of Multiplication and Division. When introducing multiplication facts to your students, how long does it take before one of them connects this with skip counting? Instead of memorizing multiplication and division facts students can increase fluency by skip counting to find the answer. 5 x 6= ? skip count by fives six times (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30) 30 is the answer. If they are fluent in their skip counting, multiplication facts can be a breeze.