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Learning area: Mathematics
Year level: Year 1
Country: China, Japan, South Korea
General capability: Intercultural understanding

This learning sequence introduces the Korean number counting game, sam-yuk-gu, to assist students to develop confidence with whole numbers up to 100. It is aligned to the Australian Curriculum and supports Mathematics: Number and Algebra: Number and place value.

This and other simple counting games are explained in detail along with variations and complementary counting activities. The activities and games will help students develop confidence with naming numbers, counting and counting patterns.

Activity4_page_bigNumber grids


Image: AEF

Related resources

Activity 1: Sam-yuk-gu

In this activity, students practise counting according to rules established for certain numbers.

  1. Nominate a student to start from 1 and get each student in turn to say the number names in order.
  2. For variation, start at a number such as 30 and count backwards.
  3. In this game a rule is established for certain numbers to be replaced by a clap of the hands. The language to describe the rule might vary according to the mathematical vocabulary of the students.

    A simple rule for the numbers 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 … might be:

    • multiples of 3
    • numbers having 3 as a factor
    • numbers we can make into groups of 3 with no remainder.
  4. Instead of saying these number words, the student whose turn it is claps their hands.
  5. Guidelines for practising counting

    • The counting aloud begins with every third student clapping once rather than saying the number.
    • To maintain the concentration of students while waiting their turn, encourage all students clap on the appropriate numbers as follows: One, two, clap, four, five, clap, seven, eight, clap, ten, …
    • Any student making a mistake in the count sits down.
    • The winner is the last student left standing.
    • Alternatively when there are only two students left, play rock-paper-scissors or toss a coin to determine the winner.
    • The game rule does not have to use the language of factors or multiples. For example, you could establish the rule: students are not allowed to say a number that contains a two (2). This means 2 and numbers like 12, all the numbers in the twenties (20, 21, 22, 23 … 29) and 32, 42 and so on, are replaced with a clap of the hands. One, clap, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, clap, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, clap, clap, clap ...


Image: AEF

Activity 2: Counting by ones

In this activity students will use number cards for 1 to 20 made from a 1–100 number grid which provides the starting number prompt. Students can use objects, toys or number cards from 1 to 20 to practise counting forwards and backwards.

Task: Counting by ones

  1. Starting at number 1 and up to number 20, ask students to place an item into a basket as each number is said.
  2. The whole class can do this together or students can take turns to say the next number.
  3. At different points ask the class, 'How many things are there in the basket now?' Ask students to show their appropriate number card.
  4. Count backwards from a nominated starting number.
  5. Combine the above variations, getting students to remove items from the basket as they count backwards.


Image: AEF

Activity 3: Skip counting

In this activity students will practise multiplication and skip counting using number cards using number grids 1–100 and 0–99.

Task 1: Patterns

  1. To see the patterns emerging, nominate one or more students to use the number grids, such as either the 1–100 number grid or the 0–99 number grid, as shown. Use these with counters or an interactive white board to record the patterns as the numbers are said.
    • 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, …
    • 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, …

Task 2: Skip Counting

  1. Using number cards for 1 to 20 made from a 1–100 number grid, nominate a student to select two cards and show them to the class.
  2. The first number selected indicates the number to start counting from. The second card provides the multiple for counting on. For example, first card: 7, second card: 2.
  3. Students place counters on the appropriate numbers on their grids.
  4. Attention can be drawn to the patterns that emerge depending on the starting number and the multiple. For example: starting at 7 and counting by twos gives all odd numbers, but starting at 8 and counting by twos gives all even numbers.
  5. Compare the numbers generated by starting at 7 and counting by twos or counting by threes (all odd, mixture of odd and even).
  6. Compare the numbers generated by starting at 7 and 8 and counting by threes.
  7. Identify the number patterns in skip counting from other specific starting numbers; for example, skip counting on from 13 by twos.
  8. Predict what patterns to expect with a particular starting number and skip counting number.


Images: AEF

Activity 4: Counting frames, abacus and number boards

In this activity, students use a variety of counting aids in the classroom, including some from Asia. They will take turns to use the materials and record the patterns.

Task 1: Number grids

  1. Ask students to place counters in straight line patterns on the numbers on a 1 to 100 number grid or a 0 to 99 number grid.
  2. Alternatively, use numbers displayed on an interactive white board or digital projector.
  3. Ask students to write down the numbers (or select appropriate number cards).
  4. Ask students to describe the patterns; for example, adding 5 (0, 5, 10, 15 ...), multiples of 3 (3, 6, 9, 12 ...).

This works particularly well for games focused on multiples of x and leads to discussions about the patterns that emerge.

Task 2: Skip counting

  1. Use counting frames for counting on, counting back and skip counting activities.
  2. Counting frames are useful to show a physical representation of what is occurring.
  3. Ask students to practise counting by using a variety of counting aids from Asia.
  4. Students can take turns to use the materials and record the patterns.


Images: AEF

This learning sequence that includes number games assists students to develop confidence with whole numbers. The games (and recording the numbers involved) highlight number patterns and relationships between numbers. The games provide a stimulus for discussions about the observed patterns and the testing of simple student conjectures. The games and activities may be adapted for use with older students.

The number grids, 1–100 and 0–99, can be used to generate number cards and are useful for many other mathematical activities. There are significant benefits in students having their own copies and a bag of counters to keep a personal record of the number patterns they create in class. These can be photographed to create a permanent record of the patterns or to contribute to a class project on these themes. The number grids may be used in conjunction with an interactive white board or digital projector for whole-class activities.

There is little preparation required to do these activities in class.

The games can be played by any number of children: a small group or the whole class. The games are easiest to play if the students are in a circle or a line so that they know their physical order and when it is their turn to respond.

Playing games like sam-yuk-gu and its variations gives an opportunity to explore, refine and extend the students' use of mathematical language. Involving students in counting games and recording the patterns engages students in discussions beyond the immediate focus of the activity.

The teacher can introduce or use new terms such as odd, even, multiples of, factors, groups of and common multiples. By using counters to record number patterns on number grids students begin to establish a visual sense of number sequences in addition to saying the number word sequences.

Activity 1: Sam-yuk-gu

Sam-yuk-gu is a Korean children's counting game popularised through a Korean television program. It is well known to Australian teachers as buzz or whiz, or even buzz-whiz. It involves replacing numbers in counting with a clap of the hands according to a number rule established before play begins.

The number of variations in playing this game is limited only by the imagination of the teacher and students.

The game can be played with younger children who are unfamiliar with terms such as factors/multiples/groups ofIn this version the teacher can use number flash cards during the counting sequence for the numbers that require a clap of the hands. At this level, to familiarise students with the game, the flash cards could replace any numbers in the counting sequence rather than follow a rule. They could include different representations of numbers such as figurative pictures, dice faces, playing card numbers and so on.

Vary the game by counting:

  • groups of three, starting at 30
  • groups of three, from 30 going backwards
  • from any starting point such as 8 or 13
  • groups of 5, or any other number
  • odd numbers
  • even numbers.

Teacher can extend the game by:

  • nominating two or more numbers in the rule; for example, 2 and 7
  • adding actions; for example, clap hands on multiples of 3, stamp feet on multiples of 7
  • playing any of the above backwards
  • combining skills; for example, clap hands on multiples of 3, stamp feet on multiples of 5, say 'buzz' for numbers containing a 7. Such a game would go like this: One, two, clap, four, stampclapsay buzz, eight, clapstamp … twenty-six, clap and say buzz, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, clap and stamp …

Activity 2: Counting by ones

In this activity students will use objects, toys or number cards for 1 to 20 made from the 1–100 number grid. Students count on by ones. The whole class can do this together or students can take turns to say the next number.

Activity 3: Skip counting

In this activity, students will practise multiplication using number cards, the 1–100 number grid, the 0–99 number grid and plastic counters.

Activity 4: Counting frames, abacus and number boards

In this activity students will use a variety of counting aids in the classroom, including some from Asia. They will take turns to use the materials and record the patterns.

The abacus has a long history as a calculating device. It comes in various shapes and forms. The top section of an abacus is called 'heaven' or the upper deck.

The Japanese abacus – soroban – has one bead on the top deck and four in the lower deck.

Both forms of abacus are used to perform base 10 calculations by moving the beads towards the centre beam. They can be used to represent numbers and are useful aids when discussing number representation and place value.

Useful websites

The internet is a rich source of information about different types of abacus, their origins and uses. Refer to:

It is recommended that teachers preview websites to ensure that they are suitable for their students prior to use in class. Content accessed via these links is not owned or controlled by Asia Education Foundation and is subject to the terms of use of the associated website.

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