Magician’s Tricks: A Magic Game to Help Your Child Learn to Count

Key Points:

  • Magician’s Tricks is a fun game for families that helps young children learn and practice counting skills and number relationships.
  • Counting involves many different concepts and skills.
  • Magician’s Tricks can be personalized to help your child practice their counting skills and develop new ones.

About the Game

Early Counting Skills

Personalizing the Game for Your Child

  • If your child is skipping a card or counting a card twice: Have your child count the cards with you while they touch each card with their finger (or their magician’s wand!). If that doesn’t help, you can also point or hold your child’s hand to help them point.
  • If your child is counting small numbers: Put out a few more cards than what your child can count. If they can count up to 3, put out cards 1–5. Keep adding more cards as they can count higher.
  • If your child is counting to 10 or higher: In addition to using higher cards, like 1–20, use cards that just have numbers (no dots or symbols). Start encouraging your child to count backward. Pick a higher card towards the end of the row. After your child tells you what card you picked, ask them how they knew. If they show you how they counted forward to figure it out, point to the last card and ask if they can count back from 10.
  • If your child can count backward: Start by choosing the 9-card to encourage your child to count down from 10. Extend to 8 or 7.
  • If your child can count forward or backward from any number: Keep the cards you choose faceup so your child can count from those cards instead of from 1. Start the game normally but after they identify your card, leave it faceup with the number showing. Continue the game by picking a card right before or right after the faceup card you just chose and encourage them to start counting from the card that is faceup. For example, if the 3-card is face up and you point to the 4-card, encourage the child to start counting from the 3-card instead of the 1-card.

Build Language and Thinking Skills

  • After your child tells you the card you picked, ask: “How did you know that number?”
  • When your child answers by showing how they counted up to the correct card, ask: “Is there another way you can find that number?” (For example, you could encourage your child to count backward from the highest number like “10…9…8…7…6…5. 5!”)
  • If you are playing by leaving cards face-up, ask questions like, “What number comes before (the face-up number)?” “What number comes after (the face-up number)?” and “What number is two less than (the face-up number)?”

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DREME Network

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A network of scholars in early math education, conducting research & developing materials to promote young children’s math learning. https://dreme.stanford.edu