Blog Post

Using a Counting Stick

This article originally appeared on 5 years ago. It’s great to see the counting stick being used in lots of primary schools around the country. I always make sure to bring one along when I’m giving talks about maths. The guide below was designed by Andrea Battye. Andrea learned this method on a Mental Maths course run by Jill Mansergh in the UK and she typed and worded the document herself.

Learning times tables using the counting stick method!

The teacher begins by holding a counting stick. You may already have one in the school, if not you should get it from most educational supplies companies. You will also need small cards with the answers to the times tables written on.

The teacher tells the children they will be magically learning their seven times tables. This gives the children a sense of anticipation about using the method. The teacher asks children a number of questions whose answers relate to the seven times tables. All children answer the teacher together.

1. What number do we always start with? (while pointing to the start of the counting stick- a)

The teacher tells the children that we always start with 0. The teacher places a small card with 0 at the start of the counting stick (using blu tack).

2. What times table are we learning? (while pointing at interval b on the counting stick)

The children should be aware of the times table they are learning. They answer seven. The teacher sticks a seven card at the next interval on the counting stick.

At this point the teacher will repeat step 1 and 2.

3. Can you multiply it by 10? (pointing to interval k)


The children should answer 70. The 70 card is placed at the end of the counting stick.

The teacher repeats step 1 and 2.

4. Can you double it? (pointing to interval c)

The children answer 14. The teacher sticks the 14 card at c.

5. Can you double that? (pointing to interval e)

The children answer 28. The teacher sticks the 28 card at e.

The teacher then revisits steps 1-5 in the same order offering lots of praise for the children as they remember each part.

6. I have a very special number to tell you and it is called the key. Our key in this times table is 21. (while pointing to d) What is our key?

The children answer 21. The teacher sticks the 21 card at d.

7. Can anybody double the key? (while pointing to g)

A child/ some children may answer with 42. The teacher sticks the 42 card at g.

8. This is really hard now, can anybody triple the key? (pointing to interval j)

Again a child/ some children may answer with 63. Show the children that the area along the counting stick has doubled for 42 and tripled for 63.

The teacher then repeats all steps 1-8. Again praising as they go.

9. Who remembers our key? Allow children to answer. Double it. Children answer. Now add seven. (pointing to h)

The teacher sticks the 49 card at h.


At this stage it is important to repeat all steps after each new number is added to the stick, starting from step 1. Especially when the children are first getting used to the method.

10. Everybody touch your nose. That’s 35. Touch your nose. Children answer 35. (point to f- the middle of the counting stick) The teacher sticks the 35 card at f.

11. Now everybody needs to help me. There is one number I always forget. Its 56 (pointing to i) What number do I always forget?

The children answer 56. The teacher sticks the 56 card at i.

Repeat all questions again pointing to the appropriate answer each time. Although this seems lengthy in words it should only take about seven or eight minutes to complete this far.

The teacher then completes the method again (starting at step 1) however each time the children answer a question, the answer card is removed from the stick! It sounds difficult but it is amazing to see the children can still answer this question. It is important the teacher still points to the correct interval on the stick as it acts as a visual reminder for many children. It is also important the teacher frequently begins at step 1 and works all the way through as many answers lead to the next in this method. When all answers have been removed, work through the method from step 1 to step 11 again, with no numbers on the stick, just pointing to the correct interval.


Things to remember and try:


  • This method works so well due to its repetitive nature. Repeat from step 1 after every couple of new answers have been added to the stick. Children rely on the information in the previous step.
  • This method and the questions work for all times tables, not just the sevens. Each times table will have a key that can be doubled and tripled.
  • Practice the method yourself before using it with the children, try it on a friend or colleague. It is important you are pointing to the correct places on the counting stick when you ask the questions. If it helps, use small stickers showing the answers on the back of the stick.
  • Working through the method, putting on the answers and then removing them should only take about 12 mins in total. It is a great mental oral starter to any maths lesson. As a plenary (about 20 minutes later) I would suggest revisiting it with the children, without the answers displayed! I would also suggest using it about three times in one week before moving onto the next times table.
  • Children can be challenged in different ways such as to try it with their eyes closed, or turned away from the teacher if really confident. I have also challenged boys against girls etc.

<!– /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-ansi-language:EN-IE; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>

< ![endif]–>KQ: What number do we always start with?

KQ: What times tables are we doing?

KQ: Can you multiply it by 10?

KQ: What times table are we doing?

KQ: Can you double it?

KQ: Can you double that?

KQ: What is our key?

KQ: Can you double our key?

KQ: Can you triple our key?

KQ: What is our key?

KQ: Can you double our key?

KQ: Now can you add seven?

KQ: Remember to touch your nose, this is 35.

KQ: What number do I always forget?


Last Update: August 9, 2017  

October 14, 2013   1465   simon    Numeracy  
Total 1 Votes:

How can we improve this post?

+ = Verify Human or Spambot ?

Ask Us A Question

You will get a notification email when Knowledgebase answerd/updated!

+ = Verify Human or Spambot ?

Comments (2)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ask Us A Question

You will get a notification email when Knowledgebase answerd/updated!

+ = Verify Human or Spambot ?