1, 2, 3, . . . . or My Favourite Language Lesson of All Time!

1, 2, 3, …..
My Favourite Language Lesson
of All Time!

Count for me. Yes, count for me. Simple question. Or … is it? Okay, I will ask you to count for me again. Did you repeat your answer or did you ….. count differently? 

Full Disclosure: I have used this lesson in classes that I have taught from Elementary to Junior High/Middle School to Senior High – and even on university students!

DOUBLE Full Disclosure: I never tire of this lesson! And maybe, just maybe, you can win a bar bet with it! I haven’t myself, but you might!

TRIPLE Full Disclosure: Is anyone counting my … Full Disclosures?

What was your response? Nearly 100% of the time, the response will be “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 …..” and then a bit of a hesitation! I neither prompt, direct, encourage or judge the response!

At the point of hesitation, I repeat the request, ‘Count for me”.  Now, about 50% of the time, I get the same response, but the fascinating part of this is that now, I can get a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT RESPONSE!

“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ….” and then it usually ends with ‘ZERO’ or ‘BLASTOFF!

“2, 4, 6, 8, 10, …..”  or “5, 10, 15, 20, 25, …”

Or it could be counting that totally surprise me! And that happened this morning, as you will see below, but first, a bit of techy, geeky, codey stuff!

You now need to see the ‘new language’ (code) that I was introducing to my computer science class at the time.

I used this BASIC lesson to describe perhaps the simplest and yet MOST COMPLEX cognitive task possible! COUNTING! Yes, I am oversimplifying this! But my ultimate purpose of this lesson was to teach problem solving, coding and a new language!

Consider the following BASIC programming code, from my old RAM chips:

FOR I=1 to 10
     PRINT I

So not only is it basic, it is BASIC which is short for:


Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code


Okay, so maybe my dredged up BASIC programming skills are not perfect! But that is what I ‘remember’ showing students how to program a computer to …”COUNT”! YOU just did the exact same thing when I asked YOU to … COUNT!

There were FOUR CRITICAL PREMISES you INSTANTLY, and it is an INSTANT response, that your required to complete my request, and I did not tell you ANY of them!

    1. Where to START counting
    2. How much to INCREMENT your counting by
    3. Where to END counting
    4. Method of output

So, the basic 1,2,3, 4, 5 …..
Start at 1
Say outloud

Increment by +1
Stop … where ?

So simple, yet so complex!

So I enacted a small social/digital/Teams experiment this morning. I asked 3 of my colleagues, via Teams, to ….’Count for me’. That is all. I prepped them by asking them to respond quickly, automatically and instantly. And the results were:

  1. 1 (delay)          2 (delay)          3 (delay)         24 (delay)       249
  2. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
  3. in Japanese

ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC RESPONSES! Thanks to ALL of you for your responses! Totally surprised me too with the never before seen responses! And we used TEAMS TOO! AWESOME!

I then asked them to count for me … AGAIN! And got this:

  1. lightning storm gif (brainstorming!)
  2. C, XC, LXXX, LXX, LX, L
  3. hehe …. good topic …..


I only have quasi-super powers, but I successfully managed to change the premises of counting for 3 of my colleagues in less than 5 minutes! LOL! Fortunately I have chosen to use my super powers for good, not evil!

The hardest premise to learn, is always the method of output!

I usually turn the tables on students by asking THEM to ask ME … to count! And I change one thing .. DRAMATICALLY!

I usually go to the chalkboard (yeah, old school, literally!) and ‘OUTPUT’ my response with chalk … and in some sequence they were not expecting, such as starting at ZERO and going NEGATIVE “ZERO, -10, -20, -30, …..” Output could be verbal, printed, sign language, tapping toes, sound … ANYTHING that could convey the output!

Who counts in negative numbers? COMPUTERS CAN! Or even counting the slices of pizza that are rapidly disappearing in the CHD kitchen after extra pizza boxes brought down by Marcus after a big meeting! LOL!


Apologies to BASIC ! I am so embarassed, I might just have to … TURTLE this one out!!

So, hopefully I have made you think a little differently the next time someone asks you to count how many people are in the lineup at Mystic to get a slice of pizza or how many computers just arrived in shipping! 


  1. Counting
  2. History of ancient numeral systems
  3. The History of Counting
  4. The Mathematics of Counting
  5. A brief history of numbers and counting
  6. When did humans first learn to count?
  7. Counting – History, fingers counting, the tally system
  8. Early Counting Systems
  9. 40 Facts About Numbers That Will Make You Feel Like a Mathematical Genius
  10. Number Facts
  11. Who’s Counting?
  13. Numberphile (YouTube videos)
  14. Googol , no not … Google

As long as there are words out there, there will be interesting topics! 







A Brief History of
Numerical Systems
Allesandra King – TED Talks

History of

Base 12

58 and Other
Confusing Numbers – Numberphile

The Opposite of
∞ Infinity ∞ – Numberphile

6 Things You Didn’t Know
About Numbers – TED Talks