Counting is a process used to determine how many of something there is, like how many apples John has, or how many minutes it takes to make a cup of coffee.

Learning to count, like learning to read, walk, or talk, is a common developmental milestone in a child's life in many cultures around the world. It is often a child's introduction to mathematics. There are a number of forms of counting.

Finger counting

Finger counting involves using your fingers to count. Although this is limited to the number of fingers a person has, it is relatively simple, and children may often begin learning to count using their fingers. In some regions, there are different methods for finger counting, but one finger commonly represents one unit. The way the fingers are used may also differ in different regions.

One method of counting with your fingers involves starting with a closed fist and raising each finger to represent one number, the thumb being 1, index finger being 2, middle finger 3, and so on through the pinky being 5. This continues on the second hand with the thumb being 6, and the pinky being 10.

Another method of counting that is more common in the United States is to start with the index finger being 1, the middle finger being 2, the ring finger 3, the pinky 4, and the thumb 5. The same continues on the other hand with the index finger being 6, and the thumb 10.

In other systems, such as the Chinese system, it is possible to count to 10 using only gestures on one hand while yet another system uses 4 fingers and 3 bones in each finger to allow a person to count to 12 with one hand.

Tally marks

Counting can also be done through use of tally marks. Tally marks are useful for counting something over a period of time, such as the number of days passed, the number of pieces of candy you eat throughout a day, or the number of points scored at a given point in a game. Tally marks are written as vertical lines, where each line represents 1 unit, and are typically written in groups of 5, where the 5th mark is a diagonal line through the first 4, as shown below:

The tally marks above represent the number 8.

Verbal/mental counting

One other form of counting is verbal or mental counting. Verbal or mental counting involves speaking each number out loud (or in your head). This form of counting is more useful when counting things that are present, such as the number of books on a bookshelf, rather than counting things over time.