3) Backwards 10 to 1

Counting: Building Steps

3.1 Backwards 10 To 1 Building Steps


  • Develop fluency counting backwards in the correct order from 10 to 1.
  • Develop the concept that each number in the counting sequence is one less than the number before it.


  • one shorter
  • one less than
  • one number before

The correct mathematical language when comparing numbers is “greater than” and “less than”. For example, “5 is greater than 3”.

The terms “bigger”, “larger” and “smaller”, in mathematics, refer to size. For example, the 5 block is bigger than the 3 block.

The terms “fewer” and “more” refer to discrete, countable objects. For example, counters. 

Core Activity

Alternate representation

Placing blocks end-on-end is an alternative representation when counting backwards. Initially students tend to start with the 10 Block and fill right as per the writing direction of English. 

 After this encourage students to start with the 10 Block and palce blocks to the left, as per the direction of a number line. 


Develop fluency counting backwards when packing away. Cover the template with a piece of white paper that is 22cm x 20cm. Start at ten, fill vertically. 

3 Pack Away

Once students are fluent packing away starting at ten, pack away counting backwards starting at different numbers. For example, “Pack away starting with the 7 block, counting backwards to 1. Then put away the rest of the blocks.” 


Some students will incorrectly orientate the numbers, placing blocks upside-down.

The teaching focus of this activity is fluency counting backwards. Focus first on developing fluency counting, identifying and saying the numbers correctly. Digit orientation and formation can be focused on in a separate activity after this.


A little easier

Steps 5 to 1

Build steps from five to one. Start with the 5 block. Build upwards like a tower. Count aloud, pointing to each number as it is said. 

A little harder

No blocks

Count backwards, by one, starting at any number except ten, without blocks.

Steps 14 to 1

Build steps from fourteen to one. Start with the 14 block. Build up like a tower. Count aloud, pointing to each number as it is said. 

Count back from 14, 13, 12 or 11

Build steps from one to fourteen. Start with 14, 13, 12 or 11. Build flat on a desk. Count aloud, pointing to each number as it is said. 

Counting backwards 20 to 10

Complete the ‘a little harder’ activity board. 

3.2 Backwards 20 To 10 Building Steps A Little Harder


In the next activity students build on counting backwards to develop fluency identifying the number before and the concept of a mental number line. Go to

 Activity 4

Counting: Number Before, Lesser Number