What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade –  Math and More!

What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade – Math and More!

Kindergarten Skills

Homeschooled Kindergarten boys play outside. Exploring and learning hands on.When you first begin homeschooling it can be difficult to figure out what you need to teach your kids to keep them “on track” as they approach first grade.

We are here to come alongside you with our brand-new Kindergarten program, which meets three times a week for just twenty minutes. This program is built around small, bite-sized chunks of learning that keep your children engaged and eager for more!

Below you will find a checklist of “essentials” that a child should know in order to successfully begin most first-grade curriculum. In this post, I focused specifically on arguably the most mysterious subject, Math, and then added a little more.

Mathematical Thinking Happens Naturally

Math is a natural process that children begin to explore at a young age.

As they sort toys into different arrangements, count things, recognize patterns, and otherwise make sense of the mathematical world around them, they are validating Galileo Galilei’s famous observation that “Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.”

The inherent order, intricate detail, and mathematically precise structure of our world all point to the nature of our Creator, and even the youngest children can see how wonderfully God has made all things.

Sometimes, however, our kids struggle to see the relationship between this beautiful world of natural math and the numbers and symbols that represent them.  Math can seem abstract when represented by numbers and symbols. By making it visual and hands-on, we can bring their natural ability to understand math back into play.

Our Developing Number Sense I and II and  Math Art classes focus on making abstract math concepts more concrete for our younger learners.

Preschool Math Skills

There are many math skills that can be accomplished without paper and pencils that will prepare your child for a more formal math curriculum. Use this list of preschool Math skills to introduce fundamental math skills into your child’s play:

  • Identifying colors (if your child struggles with identifying colors after age 5, and especially if colorblindness runs in your family, you may want to consult your doctor about the possibility of colorblindness)
  • Identifying numbers (0-9 initially)
  • Counting by rote (saying numbers, not counting objects) – start with counting to 10, then 20, then up to 100
  • Counting objects (up to 10)
  • Understanding one-to-one correspondence – that the last item counted is the quantity represented (if child counts ducks, 1, 2, 3 – he understands that there are three ducks)
  • Subitizing — being able to identify the number of objects without counting (up to 5)
  • Sorting by color, size, texture, or other feature
  • Making simple patterns (block, car, block, car…)
  • Doing simple addition and subtraction problems using objects (2 bears sat in the car, 1 more bear got in, how many are in the car now?)
  • Saying/singing days of the week and months of the year
  • Identifying seasons
  • Using counting books, shape books, and other math concept books to gently introduce math concepts

Laying a Solid Foundation in Number Sense

Once kids are able to count to 20 by 1’s, to 100 by 10’s, and understand the idea of one-to-one correspondence, they are ready to move up into the next level of developing number sense.

If you can help your kids develop number sense from the very beginning of their educational journey, you will set them up for success as they develop Mathematical reasoning skills throughout their life.

What is Number Sense?

Number sense refers to the ability to work flexibly and confidently with numbers based on a deep understanding of how numbers work, which largely depends on seeing numbers in groups of 1, 10’s, 100’s, etc.

Since our mathematical system is built on a base-ten framework, it is imperative that children see numbers grouped in 10’s from their first encounter with Math.

There are three key concepts that all children need to know in order to truly understand HOW Math works, rather than skating on the surface of fact memorization and a few highly recommended Math tools (manipulatives) that help reinforce these concepts.

Three Key Concepts:

  • Subitizing
  • Composing
  • Decomposing

Subitizing refers to the ability to see groups of numbers at a glance without counting. When kids first begin counting, it will serve them well for years to come if they can learn to arrange the objects they are counting in groups of 10’s which are further broken up into sub-groups of 5’s.

For example, instead of counting a random pile of eight raisins, they should practice laying out the raisins in a line of five with a line of three more underneath.

The sub-groups of five are key because that is what allows our brains to instantly see amounts without counting individual objects. For example, a random pile of nine toys is not instantly countable, but an ordered group of five and four can be instantly recognized – with a little bit of training.

This ties in directly with the skill of composing and decomposing numbers – that is, grouping objects in their base ten values and breaking them back apart in meaningful ways.

If you can make this type of exercise a regular part of their play, it will help them intuitively begin to “see numbers” in instantly recognizable amounts – so that ultimately when they think of the number eight, they see groupings of five and three more, or visualizing the number twenty-six as two groups of tens, a group of five, and one more.

This basis of intuitive number sense leads spontaneously into a solid understanding of addition, subtraction, fact families, place value, estimation, and much more!

As they practice this “instant recognition” skill of seeing numbers in groups of tens with sub-groups of fives, they will find themselves adding and subtracting before they even realize what’s going on.

With a bit of intentional practice, you can help them master all the combinations of “ten” which is key to everything else in the Math Facts world, as well as develop fluency in their single-digit addition facts.

Then you can overlay “Math Talk” equations onto the familiar hands-on play-based experience and show them how subtraction is a simple extension of addition. For instance, asking how many more you need to add to six to make nine should prompt a visual image where three missing spaces “light up.”  This also opens the door to early algebraic reasoning!

The Best Math Manipulatives

Anything that helps kids see numbers grouped in “10’s” is useful. The best tools, however, take this a step further and focus intentionally on the sub-groups of 5’s within every 10. This simple aspect turns every number into an instantly recognizable amount.

For young kids, ten frames serve as the perfect tool for this. You can purchase plastic or magnetic ten frames and use them to develop number sense as described above, or you can simply draw a 5×2 grid and use it repeatedly to group objects that you count.

As kids get older and are ready to work with larger numbers, you can extend all these ideas by using an abacus (if the rows of ten are differentiated into different colors in groups of five) or a rekenrek. A rekenrek is essentially a rod or string of ten beads with five in one color and five in another color. There are usually at least two of these rows to help with subitizing and adding/subtracting within twenty, but you can also get a 10-row rekenrek (which is similar to an abacus with ten rows of ten beads on each.)

You can easily DIY these Math tools, and the hands-on experience of making these may be just what kids need in order to solidify these Math concepts!

In Developing Number Sense and Mastering Math Facts Level 1, we cover all these ideas and use these tools very strategically to help walk kids step-by-step through a fundamental, lifelong understanding of HOW Math works.

This class focuses on helping kids enjoy learning as they lay a solid foundation for all future Math skills through:

  • hands-on activities,
  • Math games,
  • creative practice (making mini-books, completing color-by-number worksheets, solving picture puzzles, using note-taking guides, etc.),
  • digital activities,
  • quizzes focused on ensuring skill mastery at each level, and
  • ongoing conversations about the HOW and WHY of Mathematical problem-solving skills.

If you’re interested in learning more about this course, you can see the full course description here or contact me at sandra@realworldlearners.com.

 

For Parents of Older Kids

If you have older kids who have some gaps in their understanding (or fluency and self-confidence!) of how multi-digit addition and subtraction with re-grouping works and are ready to begin their journey into multiplication and division in a way that builds on deep understanding, not memorization or “tricks,” then you may be interested in Level 2 of this same class.

To round out the discussion of subjects and topics kids can learn before first grade, refer to this list of ideas and this blog post on What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade.

Other Subjects:

Before First Grade, Science, Social Studies, and even foreign languages can be explored through educational shows, books, and by exploring the world through nature, museums, zoos, and other field trips.  Have fun! Learn about the world around you with your preschoolers!

Here are some ideas:

  • Community Helpers – fire, police, construction workers, store clerks, servers, food service, doctors, dentists
  • Lakes and ponds
  • Flowers and grass
  • Gardens
  • Animals (zoo, pet shop, etc)
  • Reading/exploring signs in multiple languages (around here a lot of things are in Spanish and English, or have Braille on them)
  • Visiting hands-on museums and exhibits
  • Finding family-friendly festivals and cultural events in your area

You will prepare your young children for future learning by providing them with active educational adventures. Those will give them an understanding of the world around them and joy in exploring it that will lead to a lifelong love of learning.

About the Author: Sandra, formerly a Math teacher (M.A.), now homeschools her three kids and funnels her passion for teaching into creating engaging, hands-on Math curriculum, courses, and activities that help kids develop a deep understanding of how Math works and enjoy the learning process. Her dream is to help raise a generation of Math Superstars who have never heard of Math anxiety and are confident in their own ability to make sense of Math. She teaches K-6th grade math including Math Art, Number Sense Addition & Subtraction, and Number Sense Multiplication & Division through True North Homeschool Academy.

Math U See & Struggling Learners

Math U See & Struggling Learners

When our kids struggle with math, it is often difficult to find a good “fit” to teach skills.  Older students who struggle with lower math don’t want something that looks “baby-ish” or has a lower grade level plastered all over it!  Here are some suggestions and ideas for helping your struggling learner with his struggles in math.

Finding the Right Curriculum

When you first start homeschooling, you soon realize that everyone’s homeschool looks different.  There are so many curriculum options and homeschooling styles it can be overwhelming!! The biggest questions to ask yourself when looking at a curriculum:

  1. What kind of teacher are you?  Do you like to have a script to follow?  Do you like to be able to “change” things at times?  How much support do you need to teach a subject (how strong are you in that subject)?
  2. What kind of learner is your child?  Every child is different and learns differently.  Some need visual, some need more auditory, some are hands-on.  Some like colorful worksheets and some are distracted by cute pictures and poems on their worksheets.

When parents sign up for the classes and want a curriculum that will work with our program, I always recommend they look at Math U See.  I have used Math U See with my own son, who has Autism. The simple layout of the worksheets and hands-on presentation of concepts through Decimal Street (place value) and the use of the colored blocks, makes math meaningful and visual for learners who struggle.  It gives them an image to “see” in their mind when they are trying to find the answer. The introduction of place value addition and subtracting (adding and subtracting 10’s and 100’s) in Alpha has allowed my son to have a strong foundation continuing into Beta. A strong foundation at the beginning allows students to soar higher and faster later.

Why do we love Math U See?

First, there are the video explanations 

The video presentation is great for showing parents the concepts behind what is being taught, and how to teach the lesson.  Some older students have reported watching the DVD lesson with parents or by themselves to learn the material. I understand how this might work with some students and circumstances.  My son needs me teaching him one on one for him to really grasp the concept. The wonderful thing about this curriculum is it is easily tailored to your child’s learning style.  

Mastery vs. Spiral

I love the way this program teaches to mastery and is easy to modify for students based on need.  I have divided up worksheets into parts to be completed at different times. I have used more or fewer of the lesson and review pages depending on how much practice my son needed for a lesson.  Some parents and students do prefer a spiral method. Sometimes, though, a spiral method (where a concept is addressed again and again, each time adding more to it) can be confusing and frustrating for struggling learners, or children with memory issues who need repetition and daily practice to retain and increase skills.

Memorization vs. Strategy

I love the approach to addition and subtraction this program uses, with emphasis on how many it takes to get from 9 to 10 or 8 to 10 in order to help students have a strategy to solve problems, not just memorize facts.  Many of the students who come to me struggle with memory problems, and the ability to use a STRATEGY, not just rely on memory enables them to be stronger in math.  

Finally, Math U See is great for struggling writers.

Have a child who struggles with fine motor skills?  My son does too. When we started our first year of homeschooling, my son could not even hold a pencil.  He struggled with writing simple things like numbers and letters. Math U See allowed me to teach him math concepts without having to worry about a lot of writing.  I could even write for him on days that writing numbers was too much. I was able to teach to his strengths while supporting his weakness. Because of this, he is thriving in math while we work to support the writing.

Should you use the blocks vs. digital app vs. no blocks?

It is important to have the blocks in the beginning.  If cost is an issue, you may be able to buy a set used or even borrow a set for a while from someone.  However, I don’t see how you could successfully implement this curriculum as it is intended without the blocks (or at least using something equivalent such as an abacus).  The Digital App would work well for visual students or older students. It would allow the same visual concept with lower cost and take up less space.

I have found that when my son begins a new concept, he goes back to those blocks for a day or two until he learns the concepts, then is able to “see” the blocks in his head again to continue working through the concept as he continues through the lesson and test.  He needs to be able to touch, manipulate, and otherwise experience the math through the blocks. While we will use an abacus at times (it is easier for travel), it is always the blocks we return to. Also, the blocks are used in the curriculum into Algebra, so they are a good investment if you are planning to stay with the curriculum long-term, and there are enough to use with more than one child at a time.

Whatever your decision, ultimately you have to find something that works for you and your child.  For us, that was Math U See.  

Do you need additional math help for your struggling learner?  Find Live, online class with True North Homeschool Academy’s Struggling Learners Department!

Whether your child is struggling with addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, or fractions and decimals, we have a class for you!  These interactive, hands-on games and activities help give students a strong foundation in math to help them whatever their post-high school goals are.  Our positive, collaborative learning environment means the students feel supported, and comfortable enough to “try” even if they don’t know the answer for sure!

Contributor

Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos.  Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning.

 

 

Are you struggling to find a math curriculum for your struggling learner?  As a homeschool mom, math is often one of the biggest challenges and this is especially true for a special needs student.  Find out why we think Math U See is  a great curriculum for struggling learners.  #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy  #homeschoolmath #strugglinglearners

Godly Patterns- How to Teach Math, Logic & Patterns in Homeschooling

Godly Patterns- How to Teach Math, Logic & Patterns in Homeschooling

The Anti-Logic of Post-Modernism

The prevalent philosophy of today’s culture is post-modern. I know this is supposed to be about Math, Logic and Patterns  but indulge me for a minute, o.k.?

The definition of post-modern: Relating to, or being any of various movements reacting to Modernism, typically characterized by ironic self-reference and absurdity. This means that definitions are negotiable, often absurd, patterns meaningless, and there is no truth outside of what we define it to be (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

There you have it. A whole philosophy whose purpose is to undermine truth, logic and patterns. As someone who has bound themselves to Truth, I live in opposition to this. By Truth with a capitol “T” I mean the person of Truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6). While I fail often, I am committed to living by Truth, as those who truly follow Jesus with integrity must be. I’ve thought about it a great deal and I really believe that one cannot truly endorse post-modernism and Christianity; they are in fundamental opposition to each other.

So, you wonder, why am I babbling on about philosophy in a post that is supposed to be about curriculum picks for math, logic and patterns?

It is because I believe that we need to teach our children concepts that directly correspond to realities that ARE regardless of an ever present social-political environment that calls in to question non-negotiable such as logic, patterns, consequences, causality, and truth. Why we do what we do is just as important as what we do. Theory defines practice and practice informs theory. So, the math program you pick should be a reflection of your belief system. Teaching logic, by definition, declares that your theory about life acknowledges a set of principles by which to understand things.

Teach and Memorize Math
Teach a good solid math program. One that demands logical thought, clear answers, detailed explanations. There are several really great ones on the market (go here for some great ones). Expect your kids to know and memorize math facts. Memory work allows your kids to own the material. 2 + 2 does equal 4, not 5 or 9 or whatever you feel it might; “creative math” exists but not really at the level most of us function mathematically, so expect clear explanations and correct answers.  Teach your kids to line up the math facts to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, write neatly and write out the steps on paper. Orderly habits save time, frustration and incorrect answers in the end.

Teach Fallacies, Logic, Critical and Literary Analysis
Teach fallacies, forms of logic and critical and literary analysis. I don’t agree with the group that states that simply reading for enjoyment is good enough and teaching analysis spoils the fun. Really learning critical and literary analysis will take your kids on a learning curve like most other learning curves While your kids are learning lit analysis or critical analysis they will probably be hyper aware of plot, character, themes, the authors and various other questions and concerns. This might make them less aware of how much they enjoy the book or movie or program initially, but it will ultimately allow them a deeper, more complex and vibrant understanding of it all in the end. Don’t sacrifice the profound joy of complexity for the passing pleasure of fun.

Teach Truth
Teach Truth. Teach Truth. Teach Truth. As a Christian there is one path and it is found in following the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the Master of the Universe and His Son, Jesus Christ. Don’t agree? Let’s chat. If you are on board with what I’m saying, you are probably wondering what Truth has to do with logic and math and patterns. Well, it’s all there in the beginning. God is a God of order (Gen 1 -3). He has a plan and a purpose and rules, regulations and principals. To deny that, denies the Master of the Universe (see C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy). They go together. By learning Truth and His ways you are committing yourself to learning and observing the way of logic and patterns.

Be an Intentional Consumer
Assess fantasy as it comes through the door; be a gate-keeper. It’s not whether the genre is fantasy or not, but the principles that are being taught. Good writing teaches good thinking. Effective critical thinking skills are vital in sorting through social/relational problems. Good fantasy reflects this same discipline. One of the rules of good writing is believability – you’ll find this in the fantasy writing of Ray Bradbury, C.S. Lewis, Madeline  L’Engle, Orson Scott Card, etc. Much of today’s fantasy breaks fundamental rules, undermining our kids natural inclination to make real sense out of things.

We are a culture committed to fun and fantasy. We spend billions of dollars a year on movies and games that we allow our children to sit passively in front of as their minds are filled with bizarre aliens, violent creatures and apocalyptic un-redemptive doom. Personally, I love good dystopian literature; but really, if it’s not redemptive, it’s not good. Seriously reconsider WHAT you bring in to your home, beginning with the benign looking Disney movies that ohsooften make any man look like a buffoon and any woman look like a conquering hero with little respect for roles and gender differences.

The Difference between Fiction and Fantasy
There is a clear distinction between fiction and fantasy; I’m clearly not an advocate of the no fiction rule. I am also strongly opposed to the idea of allowing your kids to read just anything because “at least they’re reading.” Good and great literature abounds, so choose that and don’t make excuses for being too lazy to have good and Godly standards.

Horror Undermines
Be careful of allowing your children to view horror. Horrific events do happen (subscribe to Voice of the Martyrs if you want to be aware of how to pray for the persecuted church), but allowing your kids to indulge in it taps into irrational thought patterns. Expecting the ax murderer to jump out at you in the basement does not teach logical thinking, triggers negative reactivity and violates scripture. Same with exposing your kids to network news. Much of it is geared towards sensationalism and very little of it is actual news reporting anymore. If you want your kids to get news, subscribe to God’s World News, Science News (if you can dismiss the evolutionist perspective), or other quality news outlets.

Immerse Yourself in God’s World
Nature studies teach patterns and logic. If you allow your kids to spend copious amounts of time outdoors they will discover math and it’s cousins, because nature speaks to kids. Spend time on the trampoline star gazing and grab some good, simple astronomy books to check out the patterns and designs and amazing math all around us. The NASA web-site is a great way to get up close and personal with science nerds form all over the world who are so invested in the patterns of the universe that they’ll go to any lengths (even Mars) to understand it. And don’t forget to go to the beach and learn about shells, because that’s a whole math class in and of itself. The Jason Project curriculum is, hands down, amazing, and check out Reasons (to Believe) Academy.

Got weather? Even the most violent of storms follow patterns and predictability. The NOAA web-site is a daily favorite around here and if you get your kids hooked on weather they will learn direction and causality and how to predict what’s coming, as well as season and a whole host of other things.

Be Ready to Give Answer for the Hope that Lies Within You
God’s world is based on principles that are always true to themselves. Apologetics should be part of how you teach patterns and logic because the world of faith is all about how to live. Life is not a live and let live proposition – you are either for God or against Him and aligning yourself with the Master of the Universe means following patterns of thought and behavior. Living a life of faith is not about living by a set of rules. It is aligning yourself with a pattern where grace and law intertwine; weaving a beautiful tapestry that bind us to the heart of our Creator God.

Live it Out
Live what you believe in front of your kids; don’t be a say as I say and not as I do parent. Patterns, by their very nature, are consistent. Create patterns in your family and interactions of constancy for your kids. Habits are ingrained patterns of behavior that let one function on auto-pilot, accomplish more and cost less.

To read more about teaching Math, Logic and Patterns in Homeschooling, check these related posts:

Our {almost} FREE 2nd and 4th Grade Math Program by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Supercharged Science’s Mathemagic  by Kristi K. @ The Potter’s Hand Academy
Math & Logic Resources by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
How We Tackle Middle School Math, Logic & Science by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
 A Peek into our Homeschool: Math & Logic by Brittney @ Mom’s Heart
Math and Logic: Patterns and Reasoning by Leah@As We Walk Along the Road
Discovering Science & Math w/ Apologia & Saxon  by LynnP @ Ladybug Chronicles
Make Math Fun: Your Kids Will Thank You by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker
Our Curriculum Choices 2014 ~ Mathematics by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun
My Favorite Math For Boys by Monique @ Living Life and Learning
Math–Our Four Letter Word by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun
If I Knew Then What I Know Now by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
Math and Science anyone? by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays
My 7 Favourite Math Resources by Kim @ Homestead Acres
Basic Instincts by Chelli @ The Planted Trees
Getting My Teens Ready for Algebra by Debra @Footprints in the Butter
Math We Love by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
2014 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Math & Science by Jennifer @ a glimpse of our life

Our Take on Math, the Elementary Years – Charlotte Mason-style by HillaryM @ Our Homeschool Studio</ p>

Tackling Math and Science from Multiple Angles by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
You Might also be interseteted in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, as well as Music Theory.
Latin, Math & Music- the Universal Languages

Latin, Math & Music- the Universal Languages

Latin, Math and Music are the three universal languages. In other words, they transcend the culture barrier and speak to people  Music regardless of what language they were raised with.

Math, because it is symbolic and defines shapes, space, time, volume and concepts. You don’t need to share a language to share the beauty and simplicity of math. But you do need math to cook, build, create, shop, and so much more.

Music because it is evocative, but also keeps time, allowing us to understand something basic or complex with emotion, cadence and rhythm. Music allows us to respond to each other and the universe despite ability, age, reason or language. We all have

Latin because it is the basis of Western Civilization and the root of so many romance languages. The Ancient world was governed by it and to understand culture (Western Culture) it is so helpful and beneficial to understand the language that captures that culture. We’ve used Henle Latin for the past couple of years and we are always laughing about the Gauls feature heavily- being killed, floating down the river, found in forests and trees. It’s funny now, thousands of years later and also because I am not in fact, a Gaul. But we talk about how Rome was a military culture and brought order and uniformity to a pagan society.

Simplify! 

As homeschoolers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amazing resources and curricula that abounds. It’s a plethora of riches! But if you feel lost and burdened by how much you could do, take heart and simplify! If you only did Math, Music and Latin, you would have highly educated kids who have the universal languages at their fingertips!

My last kid at home has passed me up in Latin, and Music and soon, Math as well. That’s part of what my point with homeschooling would be, though, that I work myself out of a job. She’ll be taking Algebra II, Latin II and Music Theory this year through True North Homeschool Academy. Super excited about having her sit under the tutelage of George McBride, Gus Henebry and Deborah Leaverton. Meanwhile, I’ll focus on teaching her subjects I love and have a bit more acumen in- World Literature and Christian Psychology.

You might also be interested in Earn High School Credit in 8th Grade? You Betcha! as well as College Degree, Debt Free!