There are four crucial math concepts children need to know before entering first grade. Without a good grounding in these four areas, children will struggle and be unable to work beyond first grade math. The good news is that acquiring these four math skills is not hard to do.
The first math skill children should master is being able to count in order (1 to 10, then 11 to 100). This is best done by using manipulatives such as an abacus, Cuisenaire Rods, etc… Have your child count in real world situations like setting the dinner table for six go math grade 8. Initially, it’s normal for children to skip numbers. I’ve had the funny experience of listening to all my children count twelve, thirteen, fourteen, sixteen, seventeen and ending up with more than there actually were.
The second math skill that is really important to understand is a one-to-one correspondence. If a child doesn’t understand this concept, then he will always be counting incorrectly due to double counting or skipping an item. The idea is a simple one, as a child counts, he should only be pointing to one item per number. This is a skill that can be mastered quickly with a little practice.
The third math skill children should master is the ability to recognize a quantity of objects without counting (up to ten). This will greatly improve a child’s speed and fluency with the first ten numbers. A quick and easy way to practice this skill is by having a child hold up a certain number of fingers and then quickly identifying how many fingers are up. At various times I have played a lighting round of “Guess how many fingers I have up?” with my young children. To keep them on their toes I will sometimes repeat the same number, while holding up different fingers.
Being able to write and read numbers is the last math skill a child should know before going on to first grade math. Take this in several steps by first having your child use the sense of touch (i.e. sandpaper numbers) at the same time that he is saying the number. The actual process of writing involves several steps, so you may need to break it down so that your child only practices one step at a time. For example: how to hold a pencil, what a specific number looks like, and how to use the fingers to write a number. You can make this process fun by playing various games incorporating the skills.
By teaching four essential mathematical skills, Kindergartners will be well prepared for First Grade. Be patient and make the learning process as fun as possible, and before long those Kindergartners will be wowing you with their mathematical knowledge.