Let’s Have a Laugh and Count Some Goats

Tired of counting the days you’ve been in stuck at home during this global pandemic? Try counting some goats with your…ahem… kids.

Didn’t crack a smile at that last pun?  Here’s a counting book that is actually funny.


Published in 2010 by Beach Lane Books, Let’s Count Goats was written by author and educator Mem Fox and illustrated by Jan Thomas.


In Let’s Count Goats, Mem Fox’s humorous and fun rhyming text invites children to identify and count a whole host of goats ranging in size, silliness, and profession. The question, Can we count the____goats? is posed throughout the book. Here is one of my son’s favorite pages as an example.

Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 9.18.30 AM
From Let’s Count Goats by Mem Fox and Jan Thomas

Illustrator Jan Thomas’s bold and colorful illustrations are sure to inspire giggles amidst counting. Here’s a favorite image from the book.

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From Let’s Count Goats by Mem Fox and Jan Thomas

Let’s Count Goats is ideal for ages 3 to 6.


This book offers the opportunity for readers to count sets of goats ranging from 1 to 10.


After reading this book, I asked my son what he thought. He’s three and gave it a “I love it.” He calls it the “goat book” and we read it often.  Here is a bit about the two main magical ingredients we found in this book.

Magical ingredient 1: Humor

If I were to list some of my children’s favorite picture books, funny always tops the list. Funny books are magical. The sound of a child’s laughter is sure to bring a smile to your face.   The goats in this book are silly. Both the table and the suitcase eating goat garnered a giggle with every read.  The police goat is my son’s favorite goat, with the firefighter goat a close second. Let’s Count Goats is a great way to mix learning with some laughter.

Magical Ingredient 2: Invitation. [Here’s a post I wrote about this magical ingredient of invitation with a few more magical books that illustrate it wonderfully.]

Love how this book invites participation. When the texts prompts the reader,  “Can we count the pilot goats?”, it doesn’t give the answer on the next page. After each question posed in Let’s Count Goats, my son shares his answer by carefully pointing at each goat (an important process as a child is develops one-to-one correspondence). Some pages he silently points to each goat. Other pages he says number words as he points.  The number words he uses typically begin correctly with one, then two.  Often seven was the next number name in the sequence (counting 1, 2, 7).   Some pages I count along with him as he points (sometimes he asks me to, but not always), but mostly I sit back and observe as he works out the process of counting.

The counting process is complex process to work out as a novice.   Imagine being a novice counter and every time you count something in a book, you turn the page and hear a different answer. As my three-year old is making sense of the counting process, I enjoy reading a mix of counting books. We read some books where the number words (i.e., answers) are given on the following page and some where the counts are left solely to the reader. Counting books like Let’s Count Goats provide an opportunity to listen as our children take the lead and share what they are learning about counting from us and the world.

Let’s Count Goats is a keeper on our list of magical counting books. What fun, silly and/or magical books do you enjoy with your children and students? Please share them in the comments.  We’d love to check them out!


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Thanks and see you soon!  Touch #mathbookmagic, pass it on.


  1. Yes, I can see that now: 1, 2, 7 still shows an understanding of one to one correspondence in counting. I’m curious, would you say anything if a child counted some of the goats more than once?


    • [I apologize in advance for this long response.] I guess I’d say it depends. I said this in reference to my 3 year old (almost 4 year old). At his young age, I am curious about his counting and as I am sharing counting books with him, I see my role as an observer asking questions when I’m curious about his ideas. So in this case, I would not say anything if he had double “counted” or miss “counted” because of these intentions and his young age. During this particular reading, I observed that he wasn’t double counting objects. However, I anticipate he will go back and forth with this skill as he continues his learning process. The development of one-one-correspondence takes many, many different experiences to develop. I feel there are many natural occurring experiences in his life (e.g, sharing cookies with his older siblings) for him to practice this. However, if I was a classroom teacher or my child was older and was struggling with one-on-one correspondence for awhile, I would imagine my answer to your question would change. I would look for ways to engage the child with experiences that highlight the need for one-to-one correspondence. As a young child begins more formal schooling, he or she will be in situations where different children are offering different counts. This creates a natural need for the comparison and analysis of different counts to come up. For example, when 19 students get 10 for a count, then 1 or 2 students count 9, and another students counts 11, a discussion can arise that addresses: whether we can have more than one answer for a count of the same set, what might have happened, which answer is correct, and how might we come up with strategies to help us be sure to count each object only once. Hope that helps explain my thinking. Thanks for the comment/question.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your thorough explanation! Yes, the child’s age would make a difference in how you respond. I love that you wouldn’t tell the child he’s wrong, but you would find different experiences to engage the child to help the child figure it out.

    This may interest you: I know someone who counted in a different language every time he read a counting book to his child. He let his child pick the language from a shortlist of possibilities. Hearing different words for the numbers did not have a negative impact on the child at all. He learned how to count not only in English but a few other languages as well.


    • How fascinating. Counting in different languages. Love that example, thanks for sharing. Something I will definitely think about as I continue to think about counting alongside my son. Who would have thought that one of the simplest things we do in mathematics (counting), is such a rich terrain for exploring mathematical thought processes.


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