Typical First Grade Math Curriculum

First grade classroom with children raising hands

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In kindergarten, children are introduced to numbers and math concepts. In first grade, the math skills they learn to build on the concepts they should have learned by the end of kindergarten. They will gain a better understanding of number concepts and will expand their math abilities. The specific goals for a first-grade class can vary a bit from state to state and from school to school, but there are some general expectations.

Math Skills a First Grader Is Expected to Learn

In general, your child will be expected to perform the tasks on this list by the end of first grade.

Numbers and Counting

  • Count by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, and 25s past 100
  • Read, write, and understand numbers to 999
  • Identify numbers in the ones and then tens place in a two-digit number
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the parts-to-whole relationship by modeling simple fractions (1/2, 1/4, and whole) using manipulatives and pictures

Classifying and Estimating

  • Classify familiar two- and three-dimensional objects by common attributes (color, position, shape, size, roundness, number of corners) and explain which attributes are being used to classify the objects
  • Estimate answers to addition or subtraction problems and then solve the problem and compare the answer to the estimation (Ex: How many quarters do you need to buy an ice cream bar that costs $1.25?)
  • Estimate number of objects in a collection (i.e. number of circles on a page, number of marshmallows in a bag, etc.)

Shapes, Graphs and Data Analysis

  • Identify and describe one- and two-dimensional objects (circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, spheres, cylinders, rectangular prisms, pyramids, cones, and cubes)
  • Identify, describe, and extend simple repeating patterns (i.e. 1, 3, 5 — next number is 7
  • Collect and organize data and record it in tally charts, tables, bar graph, and line graphs

Measuring and Comparing

  • Measuring in standard and non-standard units
  • Compare volume of liquids in containers of different sizes
  • Compare the length, weight, and volume of two or more objects by using direct comparison or a nonstandard unit
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the concepts of less than, equal to, or greater than by comparing and ordering whole numbers to 100 using the symbols for those concepts (<, =, >)
  • Identify one more than, one less than, 10 more than, and 10 less than some other number
  • Order objects by weight from lightest to heaviest

Time and Money

  • Count combination of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies to at least $1.00
  • Tell time to the nearest quarter-hour on both a digital and analog clock
  • Relate time to events (longer, shorter, before, after)
  • Read a calendar and identify the month, date, and days of the week

Adding and Subtracting

  • Add and subtract to and from 30
  • Add three one-digit numbers
  • Solve addition and subtraction problems with one- and two-digit numbers
  • Demonstrate an understanding of mathematical symbols (+, -, =)
  • Create and solve problems with a known answer (i.e. 3 + __ = 5)
  • Solve simple story problems

What Should You Do If Your Child Can Perform These Tasks Before First Grade?

Some mathematically gifted children may be able to perform some of the tasks on this list before the end of first grade. For instance, they may be able to add and subtract single-digit numbers in their heads. Some may even be able to add and subtract double-digit numbers in their heads. And a few are even able to do some of it before they enter kindergarten.

If your child is one of those kids who can perform these tasks (and possibly more) and is not yet in first grade, you have a few options. One is to keep your child where he is in school and provide enrichment at home. If your child is happy where he is and is not complaining about or frustrated by any lack of challenge, this could be a good option.

You can provide enrichment with supplemental materials at home, in community programs, or online sites like the Khan Academy.

However, if your child needs the challenge at school, you have a couple of other options to try, depending on what the school has to offer and is willing to do for your child, as well as what your child's overall strengths are. If your child is advanced in math, but not in other areas, you can see if the teacher can provide some differentiated instruction in math. Your child's school might also have a pullout program that provides kids with enrichment and challenge in specific areas, such as math.

If your child is globally gifted, you might try to explore the possibility of a grade skip. Keep in mind that your child should be socially and emotionally prepared to be with older children (most are) for this option to work.

Chances are that you won't have much of a choice. Not all teachers differentiate and not all schools have pullout programs. And most schools seem to resist grade skipping. That means that you may be looking at supplementing your child's learning at home. However, your chances are better if you can document what your child is able to do in math and show it to the school officials.

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  1. Common Core Standards Initiative. Grade 1: Introduction.

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.