Counting Cars

The Counting Cars (Lakeshore Learning) activity will help children develop different math skills. Depending on the child’s age, developmental level, and/or grade, the child can learn the following concepts:

  • count
  • identify numerals
  • identify number words in print
  • sequence numbers
  • count with one-to-one correspondence


The Counting Cars activity contains 70 pieces (10 cars and 60 passengers). Each car is numbered individually with printed white numerals (1-10) on front (hood) as well as on the back (trunk). Printed white number words (one-ten) are also on the sides (doors) of each car.

All 10 cars have rotating wheels that really roll. The wheels have a rubber strip for a smooth ride. After a gentle push, the passengers snap securely in place. Each car is represented in one of four colors (orange, blue, green, red). The cars vary in length due to the number of “seats” in each car. All passengers are represented in purple color.

Rubber strip on rotating wheels

Passengers snap securely in place

Purple passengers


When counting passengers/cars, say the number names in the standard order. Model pairing each passenger/car with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only one passenger/car. Children move from rote counting to counting concrete objects (the passengers/cars) and then begin to develop the idea of one-to-one correspondence as they realize that one number name goes with one passenger/car.

Identifying Numerals

Numeral representations for each number name should be introduced as children begin to rote count fluently. The Counting Cars activity provides opportunities for children to connect the number name with the numeral.

Identifying Number Words in Print

Children with emerging reading skills should be encouraged to read the names in white print on each car. The Counting Cars activity is helpful for children to understand that “four passengers” also represents the numeral “4” and the name in print “four.”

Counting Cars - Lakeshore Learning

Sequencing Numbers

Children will learn to sequence the cars from 1-10.

When appropriate, the cars should be in random order and the child can then sequence the cars (1-5 or 1-10) in the correct order.

Counting with one-to-one correspondence

“Touch and count” as the child places each passenger in the car. Start with a few cars (e.g., 1-3) and increase range (e.g., 1-5) as child demonstrates understanding of one-to-one correspondence.

My experience using the Counting Cars activity

I have used the Counting Cars activity in a variety of ways. I have worked with children that are unable to count or identify numbers. I have also worked with 3-year-olds that are able to identify every number between 1-10. The Counting Cars activity can be easily adapted to meet the needs of each child.

Additional Activities

Asking simple WH questions 

This is a great activity I have tried when working in small groups of 2-3 children. Each child is encouraged to respond to the following questions:

  • Who has number ___?” The child may respond “me” or “I do.” Also, one child can identify the peer (by name or by saying “he/she”) that has the number ___.
  • What number is this?”
  • Where is number ___?”
  • Which number is missing?” – Align the cars (1-5 or 1-10) and remove a car (or several cars). Ask the child to identify the missing number(s). This activity reinforces identifying numbers and is helpful as children learn sequencing numbers. If exposed to this activity, the child should be able to recognize all numbers used during activity.

Note picture below in which number ‘4’ is missing.

Matching – Encourage child to look at a number of passengers and have the child match the appropriate car with the passengers.

As the child demonstrates understanding of the connection between a specific number of passengers and a numeral, the teacher or caregiver can present the following field of two activity:

For example, 3 passengers = car #3

Start with a small range of cars (1-3) and increase range as child recognizes numbers. The goal is for children to match the number of passengers with the numeral (car). The Counting Cars activity connects the concept of a specific number of passengers and how they are represented by a number on a car.

“Before” and “After”

  • “Which number comes before 8?” Child should respond, “7.”
  • “Which number comes after 8?” Child should respond, “9.”

“More than” or “Less than”

  • “Which car has more passengers?” Child should respond, “7.”
  • “Which car has less passengers?” Child should respond, “4.”

Counting On

Provide opportunities for children to rote count from a number other than 1 (i.e., 3) without having to go back and start at 1. The child should be able to continue to count (4, 5, 6) without starting from 1.


Three passengers in the car.

Two more passengers get in car.

How many passengers in the car?

3 + 2 = 5


Three passengers in the car.

Counting Cars - Lakeshore Learning

One passenger gets out of the car.

How many passengers are in the car?

3 – 1 = 2

“How Many?”

When counting the passengers/cars, emphasize that the last number name said indicates the number of passengers/cars counted.

“Cardinality” – Provide opportunities for child to see how many passengers there are. For example, show any amount of passengers between 1 and 10 and ask, “How many?” Child should respond, “5.” Cardinality refers to the actual number of passengers.

Most children also demonstrated improvement in other areas, including but not limited to:

  • not calling out
  • identifying peer names
  • responding when name is called
  • waiting turn
  • taking turns
  • sharing
  • isolating index finger to point
  • joint attention
  • improved attention span
  • eye-hand coordination
  • pincer grasp
  • Understanding “push” (secure passengers) and “pull” (remove passengers)


  • Teaching multiple concepts at once is not a good idea. Teach number identification (i.e., “What number is this?” or “Where is number 6?”), sequencing, and one-to-one correspondence, separately. For example, teach sequencing numbers (1-5 or 1-10) only after child is able to recognize numbers.
  • Children who confuse numbers during a sequencing activity (i.e., 1, 2, 5, 3, 7, 4), skip numbers (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8), or repeat numbers (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5) require more practice counting within a smaller range of numbers.
  • Keep in mind that the child should be fluent within a range of numbers (i.e., 1-5) before increasing the range (i.e., 1-10).
  • Encourage child to connect the number of passengers (7 passengers), the oral number word (“seven”), the written number word (“seven”), and the numeral (“3.”)


The Counting Cars activity is a set of 10 plastic cars and 60 passengers. The cars are numbered individually and easy to use. Children will learn to:

  • count
  • identify numerals
  • identify number words in print
  • sequence numbers
  • count with one-to-one correspondence

Additional Information

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