Number, Counting & Cardinality

Magician’s Tricks

Counting From 1

Place number cards face down in numerical order. One child points to any card and the other child—the magician—uses their magic counting skills to figure out what number it is without turning the cards over. Then, flip the card over so children can see if they are correct. Place the card face down again. Have children switch roles and repeat.

Primary Objectives

  • Counting from 1 to 5, 10, 20 (or somewhere in between)
  • Recognizing numerals

How To Use

  1. First, introduce the activity to the WHOLE GROUP.
  2. Then, engage children in the activity in SMALL GROUPS.
  3. Once the children are very familiar with the activity, they can play it independently at CENTER TIME with slight modifications.

If some of your students are already consistently counting up to 10, they might be ready for Counting From Any Number.

How To Play The Activity

The activity steps icons below outline the steps of the activity. Print these icons as cards and share them to help children remember the steps. They’re also a helpful scaffold for children! Find a sample script for teachers to use here.


Setup 1

Lay the cards face up from 1 to 10 and count how many there are in all.

Setup 2

One by one, turn each card over to the blank side, saying the number word as you turn it.

Step 1

Child 1 points to a card.

Step 2

Child 2, as the magician, counts to figure out what number is on the card.

Step 3

Child 1 turns over the card to see if Child 2 is correct. (If not, try again!)

Step 4

Child 1 flips the card back over to the blank side.

Step 5

Children switch roles and play again.
Teacher’s Guide

Instructions for introducing the activity to the Whole Group

Introduce The Activity

We are going to take turns being a magician! Do you know what a magician is?

If necessary, say, A magician is a person who does magic tricks!

Like a magician, I am going to show you a magic trick we can do with numbers!

Allow children to respond.

Model The Activity

Let’s count the cards together.

Lay the counting cards or numeral cards face up in order from 1 to 10. Say the numbers 1 through 10 aloud while pointing to each card.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: For children still learning the names of numerals or what quantity each numeral refers to, use the counting cards which have numerals and dots.
  • Math & EF: Use fewer cards (for example, only 1 to 3 or 1 to 5).

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: For children still learning the names of numerals or what quantity each numeral refers to, use the numeral cards, which have numerals only.
  • Math: During set-up only and before beginning the game, scramble and lay the cards out of order. Ask students to organize the cards in the correct order from 1 to 10.
  • Math: Say the numbers backward from 10 to 1 aloud while pointing to each card.
  • Math & EF: Use more cards (for example, up to 10 or 20).

Now we turn them over so we can’t see the numbers.

Keeping the cards in the same order, say each number as you flip the card over.

I’ll be the magician first.

If using the optional magician’s hat, cape, or wand, introduce those here.

Watch my trick. I will tell you what number is on any card without even seeing the number.

Choose a student volunteer: Please point to any card.

[Quietly, but loud enough for children to hear] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

[Then, louder to children] Abracadabra! The number is [number]!

Make a show of counting the cards, starting from 1, while pointing to each card, until reaching the card that the student pointed to.

Dramatically announce what number will be on the card.

Let’s turn the card over to check if my magic worked.

Turn over the card to check.

My magic trick worked!

Celebrate the magic! Then turn the card back over.

Now, I’m going to point to a new card and you will Think-Pair-Share with your partner to use your magic and figure out the number.

Point to a card and give all the children time to Think-Pair-Share the number they think is on the card and why.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: If children don’t correctly identify the facedown card, turn the card over and say the number word aloud together. Then turn it back over to play.
  • EF: Use the Think-Pair-Share cards and the Think-Pair-Share introduction to remember the steps of the Think-Pair-Share process.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • EF: Omit the Think-Pair-Share cards and the Think-Pair-Share introduction so students have to remember the steps themselves.

Good thinking! You figured it out!

If needed, repeat until students understand the steps of the activity.

Summary of Activity Adaptations

For quick reference, here is a summary of all the available adaptations to make Magician’s Tricks easier or harder to accommodate the needs of your students. Whether the adaptation is easier or harder depends on each student’s math or executive function skills.

What to do next

On another day, do this activity in Small Group. Are some students ready for more challenge? Try the adaptations provided above. Want even more challenge? For children who are confidently counting to 10, introduce the Counting from Any Number version.

If most of your students are already consistently counting up to 10, you may want to instead preview the version of the activity Counting from Any Number.

Steps Of the Activity

For small groups, we suggest four children arranged in pairs of two play the game with a teacher present to provide guidance. 

The activity step icons below outline the steps of the activity. Print these icons as cards and share them to help children remember the steps. They’re also a helpful scaffold for children! Find a sample script for teachers to use here


Setup 1

Lay the cards face up from 1 to 10 and count how many there are in all.

Setup 2

One by one, turn each card over to the blank side, saying the number word as you turn it.

Step 1

Child 1 points to a card.

Step 2

Child 2, as the magician, counts to figure out what number is on the card.

Step 3

Child 1 turns over the card to see if Child 2 is correct. (If not, try again!)

Step 4

Child 1 flips the card back over to the blank side.

Step 5

Children switch roles and play again.
Teacher’s Guide

Instructions for introducing the activity to Small Groups and preparing to play in pairs of two

Introduce The Activity

You are going to be magicians now! We’re going to use these to help us remember the steps.

Point to the activity step icons.

To make the executive function (EF) harder, omit the activity step icons and skip ahead to Let’s Play!

Model The Activity

First, we lay out the cards and count them.

Point to the first set-up icon within the activity step icons as you describe this step.

Lay out the 1 to 5 counting cards or numeral cards in order from 1 to 5 (from children’s left to right) so all children can see them.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: For children still learning the names of numerals or what quantity each numeral refers to, use the counting cards, which have numerals and dots.
  • Math & EF: Use fewer cards (for example, only 1 to 3 or 1 to 5).

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: For children still learning the names of numerals or what quantity each numeral refers to, use the numeral cards, which have numerals only.
  • Math: During set-up only and before beginning the game, scramble and lay the cards out of order. Ask students to organize the cards in the correct order from 1 to 10.
  • Math & EF: Use more cards (for example, up to 10 or 20).

Put cards in row of (for 1 to 10 cards) or of four (for 1 to 20 cards). Point out the first and last card in each row, and guide children to count on or back from these numbers if necessary.

Let’s count the cards together.

Say the numbers 1 through 10 aloud while pointing to each card.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math & EF: Also say aloud the number words backward from 5 to 1 while pointing to each card.

 

Next, we turn over all the cards while saying the number on each card.

Point to the second set-up icon. Keeping the cards in the same order, say each number word as you turn the card over.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math & EF:  You may choose to keep the 1 card face up.

Now you be the magicians!

I will point to a card. Don’t say what number it is yet!

Point to the facedown 2 card.

Instead, Think-Pair-Share with your partner. ”What is the number and how do you know?”

Review Think-Pair-Share as necessary.

Give children time to Think-Pair-Share the number they think is on the card and why.

Without turning over the card, ask one pair of children to share their answer.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math & EF: Remind students where the 1 card is before pointing to the 2 card.
  • Math & EF: Display a second set of faceup counting cards positioned just above the facedown counting cards as a visual cue to identify the cards.
  • EF: Use the Think-Pair-Share cards.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math & EF: Choose a counting card higher than 2 or use numeral cards higher than 5.
  • Math & EF:  Have children count without pointing to or touching the cards.
  • EF: Omit the Think-Pair-Share cards.

What is this card? [point to 1]

Correct, it’s 1. So, if we count up to the next number, what is this card? [point to 2]

While keeping the cards face down, talk about how to figure out the answer.

Good thinking! You figured it out!

Turn over the 2 card so children can see they are correct. Celebrate the magic of finding the answer!

If needed, repeat the steps until students know how to play.

Time To Play!

Here are your cards. Now you will take turns being the magician or the pointer who picks out the card!

Give each pair of children a set of counting cards or numeral cards, role cards, and activity step icons.

It’s your turn to be the magician first [point to student], and it’s your turn to be the pointer who points to the card [point to student] and flips the card over when we’re ready.

 

Assign one student in each pair to be the magician and one to be the pointer, using the role cards if needed.

MAKE IT EASIER

MAKE IT HARDER

Let’s play! It’s time for the pointer to point to a card. Now the magician can use their magic counting skills.

Lead students through the activity with the activity step icons.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: Encourage the magician to physically touch each card while counting it.
  • Math: Model the counting strategy together, saying, for example, “What is this card?” Continue until the goal card is named.
  • Math: Turn the card face up and identify the number. Then return the card face down.
  • EF: The pointer places a counting chip on the selected card to help the magician keep track of the card.

It’s time to switch roles and play again! If you were the magician last time, you are now the pointer. If you were the pointer, now you get to be the magician.

Have students switch roles at least 2 times. Also switch the role cards.

Summary of Activity Adaptations

For quick reference, here is a summary of all the available adaptations to make Magician’s Tricks easier or harder to accommodate the needs of your students. Whether the adaptation is easier or harder depends on each student’s math or EF skills.

What to do next

Do some students need more support or more challenge? Try the adaptations provided above. Continue working in Small Groups with teacher support until students can comfortably play with minimal teacher guidance. Then have students practice the activity independently in Center Time. For children who confidently count to 10, introduce the Counting From Any Number.

Did some of your students play Counting From Any Number in a Small Group? If so, they should also play that version during Center Time.

Materials


Steps Of The Activity

The activity steps icons below outline the steps of the activity. Print these icons as cards and share them to help children remember the steps. They’re also a helpful scaffold for children!

Find a sample script for teachers to use here.


Setup 1

Lay the cards face up from 1 to 10 and count how many there are in all.

Setup 2

One by one, turn each card over to the blank side, saying the number word as you turn it.

Step 1

Child 1 points to a card.

Step 2

Child 2, as the magician, counts to figure out what number is on the card.

Step 3

Child 1 turns over the card to see if Child 2 is correct. (If not, try again!)

Step 4

Child 1 flips the card back over to the blank side.

Step 5

Children switch roles and play again.
Instructions

Instructions for introducing the activity to the Center Time

Review The Activity

Today, the Magician’s Tricks game we’ve been playing together will be at [name] Center!

 

Tell students that the activity will be in Centers to play on their own. We recommend playing the activity in Small Groups at least once before introducing it in Centers.

MAKE IT EASIER

  • Math: For children still learning the names of numerals or what quantity each numeral refers to, use the counting cards, which have numerals and dots.
  • Math & EF: Use fewer cards (for example, only 1 to 3 or 1 to 5).
  • Math & EF: If students need help remembering to start counting from the left, draw an arrow pointing to the right on the first card in the sequence.

MAKE IT HARDER

  • Math: For children still learning the names of numerals or what quantity each numeral refers to, use the numeral cards, which have numerals only.
  • Math & EF: Use more cards (for example, up to 10 or 20).

You will have picture cards to help you remember how to play and to remind you whether you are the magician or the pointer.

Display the activity step icon cards and the role cards.

Time To Play!

Let’s remind ourselves how to play the game!

MAKE IT EASIER

MAKE IT HARDER

Summary of Activity Adaptations

For quick reference, here is a summary of all the available adaptations to make Magician’s Tricks easier or harder to accommodate the needs of your students. Whether the adaptation is easier or harder depends on each student’s math or EF skills.

Explore The Executive Function And Math Skills In This Activity


Math Learning Trajectories
What to do next

Keep playing this activity in Centers throughout the year. Students who played the Counting From 1 version may switch to the Counting from Any Number version once they’ve been introduced to it in Small Group and can count to 10 independently. Do some students need more support or more challenge? Try the adaptations provided above.