# Counting Backwards From 20 To 1

PROCEDURE. Say to the child: "_You can count backwards, can you not? I

want you to count backwards for me from 20 to 1. Go ahead._" In the

great majority of cases this is sufficient; the child comprehends the

task and begins. If he does not comprehend, and is silent, or starts in,

perhaps, to count forwards from 1 or 20, say: "_No; I want you to count

backwards from 20 to 1, like this: 20-19-18, and clear on down to 1.

Insist upon the child trying it even though he asserts he cannot do it.

In many such cases an effort is crowned with success. Say nothing about

hurrying, as this confuses some subjects. Prompting is not permissible.

SCORING. The test is passed if the child counts from 20 to 1 _in not

over forty seconds and with not more than a single error_ (one omission

or one transposition). Errors which the child spontaneously corrects are

not counted as errors.

REMARKS. The statistics on this test agree remarkably well. It is

plainly too easy for year IX, and no one has found it easy enough for

year VII. The main lack of uniformity has been in the adherence to a

time limit. Binet required that the task be completed in twenty seconds,

and Goddard and most others adhere rather strictly to this rule.

Kuhlmann, however, allows thirty seconds if there is no error and twenty

seconds if one error is committed. We agree with Bobertag that owing to

the nature of this test we should not be pedantic about the time. While

a majority of children who are able to count backwards do the task in

twenty seconds, there are some intelligent but deliberate subjects who

require as much as thirty-five or forty seconds. If the counting is done

with assurance and without stumbling, there is no reason why we should

not allow even forty seconds. Beyond this, however, our generosity

should not go, because of the chance it would give for the use of

special devices such as counting forwards each time to the next number

wanted.

It may be said that counting backwards is a test of schooling, and to a

certain extent this is true. It is reasonable to suppose that special

training would enable the child to pass the test a little earlier than

he would otherwise be able to do, though it is doubtful whether many

children below 7 years of age have had enough of such training to

influence the performance very materially. On the other hand, when the

child has reached an intelligence level of 8 or at most 9 years, he is

ordinarily able to count from 20 to 1 whether he has ever tried it

before or not.

What psychological factors are involved in this test? It presupposes, in

the first place, the ability to count from 1 to 20. But this alone does

not guarantee success in counting backwards. Something more is required

than a mere rote memory for the number names in their order from 1 up to

20. The quantitative relationships of the numbers must also be

apprehended if the task is to be performed smoothly without a great deal

of special training. In addition to being reasonably secure in his

knowledge of the number relationships involved, the child must be able

to give sustained attention until the task is completed. His mental

processes must be dominated by the guiding idea, "count backwards."

Associations which do not harmonize with this aim, or which fail to

further it, must be inhibited. Even momentary relaxation of attention

means a loss of directive force in the guiding idea and the dominance of

better known associations which may be suggested by the task, but are

out of harmony with it. Thus, if a child momentarily loses sight of the

end after counting backwards successfully from 20 to 14, he is likely to

14-15-16-17, etc. We may regard the test, therefore, as a test of

attention, or prolonged thought control. The ability to exercise

unbroken vigilance for a period of twenty or thirty seconds is rarely

found below the level of 7- or 8-year intelligence.

Correlation Between I Q And The Teachers' Estimates Of The Children's Intelligence Counting Four Pennies

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