Number Girl – Part 1

Number Girl and the Art of Counting

February, Teaching Year 8

Ah yes. Frogs are one of my favorite counting objects and tiddly frogs are one of my favourite games!

I had been working in a grade two class since the start of the year and teaching math.  For the most part, I had been succesful in figuring out Grade two math, and because I was getting the hang of it, they were getting the hang of it. Except for one girl. Number Girl.

Number Girl had her own way of counting, and no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t seem to be able to find a way to help her see that her counting system didn’t really work.  It all started with the names of the numbers.  The numbers one through ten were not a problem.  Twenty through fifty seemed pretty solid.  Number girl used a different naming convention for the numbers between ten and twenty.  To be fair, her numbering system seemed solid.

Every day we would count “Seven, eight, nine, ten, ” she would continue with,”one one, one two, one three, one four . . . ”

Now, if you think on it for a bit, I am sure that you will agree that, if anything, Number Girl’s numbering system makes more sense than our  English numbers.  Eleven, twelve, thirteen, etc are a bit eccentric as far as the number naming system goes.  I would have left it alone and allowed her to develop out of it on her own, I mean, hearing the regular numbers every day was bound to sink in eventually.  Right? But I couldn’t because of one thing. Not only did they have special names, they also had their own arithmetic rules.

For example, when her numbering system met addition, things went a bit wonky.  “Two frogs here. Nine frogs here. How many frogs are there?”

She would carefully count them, silently, and then tell you, with much confidence, “Two plus nine?  That’s easy!  Two!”

“Let’s count together shall we,” said I, the ever patient teacher.  After all, I had found plastic tiddly frogs today. You don’t want to waste a good tiddly counting lesson!

She named and touched each plastic frog as she counted, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, one one.”

“One one?”

“One one.”

Every day, I said.  “One one? That is eleven you know.”

Every day, the same answer, “Eleven is hard to remember. One one is easier. Just the way it looks. One. One.”

“Ah, but you have shown your answer here.  You have 9+2=2.”

“Yes. That’s the even faster way.”


“Yes.  It’s faster.”

“But eleven . . .

She interrupted, “one one . . . ”

. . . is not two.” I finished.

Number girl, all of seven years old, would roll her eyes, shake her head, and say, “You are so silly, Mr. Martin. Everyone knows one one is two.”

Honestly, trying to help her construct the idea and gain number sense became my quest. She was a stubborn little thing, and neither peers, nor other teachers, nor anyone could shake her of this simple truth.  Eleven was one one. One one was two. Twelve was One Two.  One Two was three.

After four months (and one one days) I was starting to run out of ideas . . .

To be continued . . . .




Story is licensed under the Creative Commons. Uses outside of this license require the authors permission.

Creative Commons License

Number Girl and the Art of Counting – by Stephen A. Martin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada


One Response to “Number Girl – Part 1”

  1. Oh so exciting… I can’t wait to hear the rest of this… how fun!

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