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Brabyns Preparatory School
The Principles of Counting

Success in Primary Mathematics begins in the Early Years, by developing a sense of number and counting, often, children will learn to count by simply repeating the numbers by rote. This is where Gelman and Gallistel’s counting principles develop this further.

The principles include: the one to one principle, the stable order principle, the cardinal principle, the abstraction principle, the order-irrelevance principle and the subitizing principle.

Within Nursery we have created an interactive display to inform parents of these counting principles, and this has been a focus across the EYFS, using various approaches and resources to embed their understanding. Have a look at the principles below and we hope you enjoy finding out more about how you can help your child.

The Stable Order Principle:

This principle ensures that children learn the number names in the correct or stable order.

The One-To-One Principle:

Understanding that each object in a group can be counted once and only once. It is useful in the early stages for children to actually touch each item being counted and to move it out of the way as it is counted.

The Cardinal Principle:

This principle says that, on condition that the one-one and stable-order principles have been followed, the number name allocated to the final object in a collection represents the number of items in that collection.

The Abstraction Principle:

Abstraction requires the understanding that anything can be counted whether tangible or not.

The Order-Irrelevance Principle:

The order in which items are counting is irrelevant, children are to have an understanding to count a group of objects from different places, for example from left to right or top to bottom.


Subitizing is the ability to visualize a small number of objects and know how many there are, without counting them.

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