Unit Three: One-to-One Correspondence

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Go back to Unit Two: Rote Counting

Go back to Developing Preschool Number Sense

Learning Objectives

  • Learners will share at least one way to reinforce one-to-one correspondence in a preschool classroom.
  • Learners will comment on and critique classmates' classroom integration ideas.

What is One-to-One Correspondence?

Rae Pica, world-renowned early childhood specialist, defines one-to-one correspondence as "the ability to match numbers to objects or object to object; for example, the numbers one to five matching five blocks, or matching one sock to one shoe" (Pica, 2012). Children display their one-to-one correspondence when they count a group of objects "by physically or mentally touching each object once" (Center for Innovation in Education, 2011). When a child can state the number of objects that they have counted by providing the numeral name, they are showing their ability to subitize.

[Read Rae Pica's article on One-to-One Correspondence] (Pica, 2011) Take note of any ideas you might like to incorporate into your preschool classroom's curriculum.

How to Reinforce One-to-One Correspondence in a Preschool Classroom

Who Is Here Today? Children's photos and names have been covered.
  • As a beginning-of-the-day job, have each student place a popsicle stick or other object in their picture/name pocket. As a morning meeting/circle time job, have one child per day count the number of popsicle sticks (or whatever object you choose to use). Next, have the same child go around the circle or group and count how many children are in school, touching each child's head as they count aloud. Some children may need assistance with this, especially depending on the class size. Children will begin to notice that when there are 13 friends signed in, there are also 13 friends at circle time. They might also begin realizing that when a friend's popsicle stick is missing from the chart and the total number of students is less than usual, that means that a friend is not in school. This activity is a great way to reinforce one-to-one correspondence and is also a good point of discussion for morning meeting.


  • Read and discuss counting books. Here are some book recommendations:
  • [Anno's Counting Book, by Mitsumasa Anno] ("Paperback sample of") As you read this book, invite children to count the objects on each page. This is a great book to read in a small group, as reading it in a small group allows for children to have more opportunities to count.
  • [Mouse Count, by Ellen Stoll Walsh] (seelis99, 2009) As you read this book with children, before reading the words on the pages, count the mice one by one with the class. As you do so, be sure to model giving every mouse a number. After counting the mice on a page, ask the children "How many mice did we count?" This process helps reinforce children's number sense.

Dot Dice

The faces of a 1-6 dot die
  • Dot Dice can be used during many parts of the preschool day. One way dot dice can be used is while doing an art project. Instruct the child to roll the die, count and state the number represented, and find that number of paper scraps (or pom-poms, feathers, etc.) to add to their project. Another activity is to have children roll a die and show the same number of manipulatives, or do the same number of jumping jacks (or hops, claps, stomps, etc.) A way to differentiate the dice idea is to have some dice that only go up to three dots, and others that go up to six dots.

Other Activity Ideas

It's Time To Make a Lesson Plan

This unit defines one-to-one correspondence and introduces various ways to reinforce and incorporate this skill in preschoolers. The first part of the assignment for this unit requires you to come up with a lesson for preschoolers (you choose the exact age) that includes one-to-one correspondence.

In your lesson, include the following sections:

  • Title
  • Rationale (Why are you teaching this lesson?)
  • Objectives (Make sure the objective(s) is (are) attainable in this single lesson)
  • Age (3-4 years or 4-5 years)

  • Time of day (Choice time, Circle Time, Recess, etc.)

  • Materials (Please create these materials and/or add photos of the materials in your document)
  • Timing
  • Procedures (Describe the steps of the lesson so that someone other than you could carry out the lesson.)
  • Assessment (How will you know that your objectives were met?)

Please complete this assignment as a document with text and images. Upload your document to the wiki as a .pdf, and link it in the Discussion area of this page.

Lesson planning can be a time-consuming aspect of teaching. When teachers find a flow that works for their teaching style, they adapt it to meet the needs of different content areas and standards. For the second part of your assignment, review three classmates lesson plans. Give your classmates a suggestion about how they could reuse or recycle some part of their lesson plan in the future. You might choose to suggest how their materials could be used again for a different activity, or how the procedures might be applied for a different content area. This is a time for you to be creative.

Go on to Unit Four: Connecting Numerals to Quantities