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Parents – 1st Grade Math

1st Grade Math


The main ideas in first grade are addition and subtraction up to twenty, and starting to make larger numbers out of tens and ones.  Kids will not only learn their number facts, but see them as related. This will help them not only learn these facts, but to build number sense.

For example, a child might learn their “doubles”, like 8 + 8 = 16 and from there know close facts such as 8 + 7 = 15 because it must be one less than 8 + 8. Another child might prefer to see 8 + 7 as 8 + 2 + 5, and then see that as 10 + 5 to get 15. This last approach of “making a ten” is key. Finding it this way will help kids remember it and will also be important for knowing the rules of arithmetic and eventually algebra. Kids won’t just see problems like 3 + 2 = 5 but also 5 = 3 + 2 and even 3 + 2 = 1 + 4. Well-established research suggests the importance of activities like this to lay a proper understanding of the equal sign.

Kids will be working in concrete ways with tens and ones, often with blocks and definitely with pictures, so that they know what it means make a ten or break one up. This process is called “regrouping” to emphasize that the value of the number hasn’t changed. We have called it than carrying or borrowing in the past, but are we really `borrowing’ if we never get it back? :-)

Eventually kids will be proficient with pencil-and-paper and even mental math, but using pictures or objects gives them a firm foundation for what they’re doing.

Parent resources for each unit of 1st grade math

The links below provide a description of the math content by unit of our Investigations curriculum plus additional resources specific to the math of each unit.

Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 3 Unit 4 Unit 5
Unit 6 Unit 7 Unit 8

General Parent Tips for Supporting 1st Grade Mathematics

  • Talking about arithmetic out loud as it comes up in daily life is wonderful. “There are six of us at dinner and two cups already out; how many more cups do we need.” If you use cash, talking through money is terrific.
  • There are many good games that promote good number sense, without your kids even noticing. For example, if you play the card game “War” but use two cards instead—so my 5 + 3 = 8 beats your 2 + 5 = 7 –even better than just doing the addition in this case is reasoning that 5+3 wins because both have 5’s but the three is greater than the 2.
  • If you want to give kids skill practice, it is better to have activities which encourage reflection. A website or worksheet which has kids do a “plus two” right next to a “plus three” will encourage them to make connections that reinforce recall.