First Grade Math Prep: 6 Skills Your Child Will Learn

Numbers are all around us, and even if you don't realize it, you most likely flex your first grade math skills everyday of your life. Yes, really!

From counting out the correct change at the cash register to measuring your new furniture, basic math plays an important role in adult life regardless of which career path you've chosen. So helping your child get a handle on numbers at an early age is sure to set him up for success.

When it comes to first grade math instruction, each state follows a specific school curriculum, all of which can differ across the country in terms of expectations, outcomes, resources, and pedagogy. However, the same basic concepts are taught to all first grade math students, including numbers, adding and subtracting, shapes, measure, time and money, and estimation.

Here, we breakdown each valuable skill set, and offer up easy ways you can support your child's new math skills at home.

Numbers and Counting

In first grade children learn how to manage and manipulate numbers. They'll learn to count forwards and backward and how to skip count by 2s, 5s, 10s, and 25s.

How you can help at home: Although you can buy plenty of pre-prepared first-grade math worksheets for your child to work on, having them count familiar objects including toys, dinner settings, foods, cars, and words is more interesting. Sing number songs and help children to begin to understand the concept of fractions by talking about sharing wholes, e.g. would you like half of this cookie? We can each have a quarter etc.

Adding and Subtracting

Once children begin to experiment with numbers and counting, they will be challenged to add two or more numbers together and to subtract from a whole. At first, they may not be able to complete sums in an abstract way on paper or by using the symbols + - = and may need to use their hands or manipulatives to add or subtract. This is normal and an important step in becoming confident and competent with numbers.

How you can help at home: Ask your child to solve simple math stories like asking if their brother gave them another apple how many would they have, or by playing first-grade math games together. When your child is ready show them the symbols used to add and subtract. Use cubes or small toys to show a concrete example of addition and subtraction.

Shapes and Patterns

In first-grade math, students learn how to recognize basic flat shapes like square, circle, triangle. They also learn how to identify and recreate a simple pattern. They will start to see different graphs like bar charts and line graphs and learn how results are collated.

How you can help at home: Point out shapes in your environment from road signs to billboards, and food containers. See if your child can describe a shape for you to guess.

Time and Money

Kids will learn how to recognize different coins up to a total of $1. They will also begin to learn to tell the time although this is an ongoing skill and at first, they will learn to read the hour hand and time to a quarter-hour. They will also learn the seasons and discuss ordinal numbers 1st, 2nd, 3rd and use descriptors such as before, after, during.

How you can help at home: Have your child practice knowing certain times on the clock including the time you need to leave for school, mealtimes and bedtime. Play shop with your child using real money to make change up to a dollar and ask your child to solve simple real-world first-grade math problems.


Learning about measure and scale is a fun lesson in first-grade math. Kids get to use rulers and scales to weigh, measure and compare a range of items.

How you can help at home: At bath time give your child lots of different containers to measure and play with. Draw around your hand and cut it out before comparing it to your child's hand, get the whole family involved and order them from largest to smallest.


An important skill to learn in the first grade of math instruction is how to make a sensible and educated guess. Estimating includes classifying numbers and objects and making informed predictions.

How you can help at home: Before working out a math problem together have your child try to estimate the answer. Have children also sort and order their books or toys by color, size or type.

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