1st Grade Math Practice

Teaching a first-grade student math is like trying to scale Mount Everest for the first time. It’s a new adventure, and there’s a 50/50 chance that you’d either fail or succeed. Typically, children in the first grade have only just begun to study math in its most basic form. As such, it may take time and effort for them to get used to the subject.

So, here’s the big question: how can you teach math for first graders? How do you ensure that they meet the first grade math standards? Whether you’re a math teacher or a parent who wants the best for your child, this piece will serve as a handy guide. Let’s take a closer look at the best practices for teaching 1st grade math.

What Do Children Need to Learn in First-Grade Math?

As we mentioned earlier, first-grade math is often a child’s most memorable introduction to the subject. Thus, when creating any 1st grade math learning plan, here are some key concepts that your curriculum must cover:

Numbers and counting

Numbers form an integral part of mathematics.  As such, children need to be introduced to the concept of numbers and counting once they get into first-grade. By the end of first-grade, they ought to have learned how to count and write numbers from 0-100 and count in sets of 2s, 5s, and 10s. 

In the same vein, they should be able to count backwards from any number. Sure, this is no easy feat but there are tons of ways to help students grasp this concept. This includes utilizing hands-on activities instead of simply relying on plain old memorization. For instance, you could teach them how to count using dried beans, beads, or stones. This way, they’d be able to learn faster and more effectively.

Addition and subtraction

If you’ve ever stumbled upon any 1st grade math test, chances are you’d find questions related to addition and subtraction. Asides from numbers and counting, these are other key concepts that every first-grader needs to learn. Thus, in first-grade, your child or student will learn how to add or subtract a select range of numbers. They’d also be introduced to basic word problems involving these concepts.

During this stage, they’ll learn how to add up to three one-digit numbers and understand the core mathematical symbols. Most importantly, they’d learn how to solve problems involving an unknown number. 

A great way to ensure that first-graders fully understand how to add and subtract is by incorporating these concepts into their daily lives. For instance, you might hand them five apples and ask them to give one to a friend. Then, ask them how many they have left. By imcoroporating these mini exercises, they’ll certainly understand these basic concepts.


Telling time is an important skill we all need to survive. Fortunately, kids are often introduced to this skill as early as first-grade. In first-grade, your child or student should learn how to tell time to the nearest hour or half-hour. They should also be able to draw and understand the connection between time and events.

Sure, this concept may not be easy and some students might take longer than others to learn how to tell time. However, with constant practice, they’d eventually get the hang of it.

Pro Tip: It’s essential that you teach your kids how to tell time with an analog clock, rather than a digital one. Children who are exposed solely to digital clocks would find analog clocks tricky. On the other hand, if they learn using analog clocks, it’d be easy for them to adjust to digital ones.

Number Place Values

Since first-graders tend to do a lot of counting, it goes without saying that they’d also learn about place values. Thus, using number lines, you can teach your young learners about place values and how they work. For instance, they should understand that in the number 550, the 5 is worth 5 “hundreds.”

1st Grade Math Activities to Help Learners Practice

Apart from asking your young learners 1st grade math questions, there are several activities that can help them understand key concepts and learn faster. Here are some fun ones to try out:

Clock matcher

As we mentioned earlier, it’s essential that first-graders learn how to tell time using an analog clock. However, digital clocks are also important as they’d certainly encounter them at some point. So how do you ensure that these young learners understand how to tell time using both kinds of clocks?

It’s pretty simple, really. Encourage them to play the clock matcher game. This fun activity involves asking students to match digital clocks to their corresponding analog clocks. Not only is this is an exciting game, but it also ensures that they fully understand the fundamentals of telling time in different formats.

Shape match

In first grade, students equally learn how to draw shapes and tell the difference between these shapes. To help them practice what they’ve learned so far, you should introduce a shape matching activity.

This activity involves assembling a page with different shapes and having students write the correct answers underneath each shape. In the same vein, they could also try to make different shapes with their bodies.

Cookie counting

This activity is a fun way for kids to learn about counting. Bake several batches of cookies and have your kid count how many cookies are in each batch. Once they’ve done this, take a few cookies out and let them count the remaining numbers. This would reinforce the concept of addition and subtraction and help them understand it better.

The best part? They get to eat cookies while learning!

Final Thoughts

Teaching first-grade math to young learners isn’t the easiest thing to do. It’s a rather delicate process as the first-grade is their foundation and could potentially make or mar their future relationship with math. However, with these tips and practices outlined above, you’re on the right track to creating little math geniuses. 

Good luck!