Pre K-2nd Grade

1st Grade Math

How can I help my child at home?

Learning does not end in the classroom. Students who have supportive families who practice math at home do better in school. Students also feel that school is important.

Ways to help your child with First Grade math

  • Play board games that involve dice or playing cards to give your child practice recognizing dot patterns and counting. Games like this build strong number sense.
  • Have your child count out objects of all kinds. Make collections of buttons or use paperclips or stones. Make different size groups of objects for her to count.
  • Another counting game starts with you saying a number (like 40), and then having your child count up from there. Choose a number that is appropriate for her current counting ability. You can also ask her to count down from the number.
  • A variation on this counting game is for you to say an even number, and then have your child count up by twos.
  • Play the game “one more, one less, two more, two less”. Line up a small group of objects on the table, ask your child to count them, then ask “How much is one more? How much is two more? How much is one less? How much is two less?” When he has mastered this with groups less than 10, increase the group size into the teens and twenties.
  • You can also ask “How much is three more?” etc. as your child builds her math knowledge. It’s OK if she counts up to get the answer, although she might have other strategies. Ask her how she got her answer.
  • Another game that helps with the beginning of addition is “Hide the Buttons.” Using five buttons at first, hold the buttons in one hand and have your child count them. Then without your child being able to see, move several of them to the other hand and show your child the ones that remain. Ask “How many did I hide in my other hand?” Let your child count what’s in your open hand, and then work out how many are hidden. At first he may count up, or he may want to make a drawing with five and cross out the ones that are showing. Let him work it out any way he can. Then play again with a different number hidden. (You can use any small objects for this game, not just buttons.)
  • Knowing the number combinations to 5 and to 10 is very important. The game above helps with combinations to 5. Schools often use “five frames” and “ten frames” for developing this knowledge. You can download a packet of ten frame activities, with black-line masters you can use to make your own ten frame cards, dot cards, etc. You can watch these YouTube videos to see how they can be used: How to Teach a Child Math, Pt. 1 and How to Teach a Child Math, Pt. 2. (Please ignore the introduction to the videos. It has nothing to do with the actual content.)

                Five Frame Card Showing 2

Five-frame card showing 2. Children learn combinations to 5 by being asked “How many are missing? How many more are needed to make 5?”

      Ten Frame Card Showing 7

Ten-frame card showing 7. Children learn combinations to 10 by being asked “How many are here? How many are missing? How many more are needed to make 10?” Children also learn how to add on to 5: In this case, they know there are 7 dots because “5 (in the top row) plus 2 more make 7.”

  • Make up simple story problems that require adding or subtracting. Ask your child to draw the situation, or let her use counters of some kind (buttons, dry beans, etc.) to solve the problem. Eventually by the end of first grade, she should be able to solve problems that involve numbers that add to 10 or less in her head (like 5+4, 7+2, 3+4, 10-6). But don’t push the math facts in first grade. Children build strong number sense as they solve these problems by counting and using number strategies. Always ask them how they solved the problem if it’s not obvious. If you’ve used ten-frame cards with your child, let her continue to use the cards if she needs to as she solves these simple story problems.
  • Have your child name the shapes of objects in your house, like picture frames, windows, glasses, etc. You can even write the names of the shapes on pieces of paper and tape them to the objects to practice learning words at the same time.
  • Make a ruler out of a straight stick that is about three inches long. Call it simply “one stick.” Use the “one stick” measure to find the lengths of various objects around the house, like the width of the refrigerator, or the width of a mirror, or the height of a chair. Do this by laying the stick at one end and moving it end to end to count the length of the object in “sticks.” Have your child keep a record of each length, writing the name of the object next to the length. (In first grade, this is how they are taught to measure lengths. They don’t start using a standard ruler until second grade.)
  • If you learn in a parent conference that your child is having a problem with a particular skill or concept in math, you can work with him at home on that concept. Ask the teacher for ideas about how to help with that specific task.

Overall strategies for school success

  • Meet your child's teacher as soon as the new school year starts.
  • Ask the teacher about the process for regular communication between home and school.
  • Read what comes home from school and keep in touch with your child's teacher, especially when you have concerns.
  • Attend parent-teacher conferences.
  • Establish a consistent routine to make sure your child gets homework done. Show an interest in your child's work.
  • Always talk about school and the teacher in a positive way, even if you have concerns. It is important for children to see home and school as united.
  • Establish regular routines for morning, after school, homework and bedtime.
  • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, so he can focus at school.
  • Talk to your child daily about school and how she feels it is going. This shows the value of education.
  • Monitor and limit your child's use of technology (TV, computer, internet, video-games, phone and social media).
  • Encourage healthy eating and exercise habits.
  • Celebrate your child's school success at home.


Everyday Mathematics
Michigan Department of Education Common Core State Standards
National Association for the Education of Young Children