BlogMath for Kids7 Most Important Math Concepts Kids Learn in 1st Grade

7 Most Important Math Concepts Kids Learn in 1st Grade

Mathematics is a crucial subject that we learn in school, yet it can quickly become dull and uninspiring. Thankfully, math for 1st graders can be made exciting through interactive activities such as educational games, visual aids, and hands-on learning. By incorporating math into daily activities, we can make it more engaging and enjoyable for young learners.

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In first grade, math skills build upon concepts introduced in kindergarten, including numbers, counting, addition and subtraction, and 2-D shapes. The beauty of mathematics is that it is all around us, from road signs to pizza slices.

“Mathematics is the music of reason.” – James Joseph Sylvester

However, recent statistics show that only 38% of students in the US meet math proficiency standards, highlighting the need for more effective teaching methods. To improve understanding and engagement, we can incorporate fun and interactive techniques such as games, visual aids, and hands-on activities. These methods can help young learners enjoy math and enable parents to integrate math into everyday activities, making learning more natural and enjoyable.

By making math fun and engaging for 1st graders, we can improve their future success in the subject. So, let’s explore the exciting possibilities of math and make learning a delightful experience for our young learners.

Check out the Math Worksheets for First Grader!

What’s the Importance of Math?

Mathematics is important because it builds mental discipline and encourages logical reasoning and cognitive rigor. Mathematical knowledge is important in understanding other subjects such as science, social studies, music, and art. Math for 1st graders promotes healthy brain function, improves problem-solving skills, and supports logical reasoning and analytical thinking. A solid foundation in mathematics helps develop the skills of posing hypotheses, designing experiments and controls, and analyzing data. Its applications to real-life scenarios are vast. 

“Mathematics is a subject that opens doors to new discoveries, new ways of thinking, and new opportunities.” – Patricia Kenschaft

Basic math is necessary for the 1st grade math topics, but even abstract math can help hone critical thinking skills, helping your child succeed professionally, emotionally, and cognitively. Math helps us think critically and have better reasoning skills. It involves identifying patterns or trends among seemingly unrelated information. Studying mathematics gives your child the critical ability to learn and think logically in any endeavor. 

Related Reading: Most Important Math Concepts Kids Learn in 3rd Grade

7 Important First Grade Concepts to Master

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As children transition from kindergarten to first grade, they build upon the foundational math skills they learned in their earlier years. It’s important for first-graders to understand the basics of mathematical concepts to establish a strong foundation for future learning. To support this, the National Center for Biotechnology Information website published an article discussing the various stages of mathematical development that young learners go through, starting with counting and number recognition and progressing to more complex calculation skills. The article emphasizes the importance of using visual aids in teaching, such as manipulatives, to help children grasp abstract concepts and develop their mathematical reasoning abilities.

For parents and educators, it’s crucial to understand the math concepts that 1st graders typically learn and to provide support to ensure they have the skills they need to succeed. This article explores the key math concepts that 1st graders are expected to learn and provides tips on how to reinforce these skills at home or in the classroom. 

Number recognition and counting are two of the most important math concepts that 1st graders will continue to build upon. Let’s delve into these concepts and examine what 1st graders are expected to learn.

1. Numbers And Counting

In math for 1st graders learn different numbers and counting concepts. This forms the basis of the mathematics they will continue to know for the next few grades. 

  1. They learn to count by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, and 25s past 100. 
  2. They learn to count backward
  3. They learn the number from 1 to 100

This will be the basis for their further teachings of numbers above 100 to 999 in later grades. There are multiple ways of helping your child learn numbers and counting creatively.

You can establish math games and materials that create a creative learning space for your child. One of the easiest games to play daily is counting the mess. Your child can help you clean up their educational toys after playtime, but it is another playtime! Guess the number of toys and other things to be kept away and count them as you clean. Let’s see whose guessing skills are really good. 

You can also use shapes and colors to teach your kids the counting of numbers. Children can learn more than just numbers by counting the sides in shape or by counting different colors in a household object. 

2. Addition And Subtraction

Addition and subtraction make up the next concept once your child has learned counting numbers. First graders learn to add and subtract numbers up to 20 and solve word problems using objects, drawings, and equations. They also learn the math behind counting, addition and subtraction. 

For example, counting from 1 to 2 on your fingers is the same as adding 1 + 1. Adding one more means counting up one time, and adding two more means counting up two times. Subtraction can be considered as counting down or backward. Kids can also learn to think of subtracting as the reverse or “undoing” of addition.

To reinforce the concepts of addition and subtraction more firmly, children can learn through interactive games and activities such as “Snap it up”. Players have to pick and pass around cards to make a math equation such as 5+2=7, and one can make equations up to 20. The more equations you make, the more you win. 

3. 2-D Shapes

Math for 1st graders includes important concepts, i.e., 2-D shapes that also cover geometry (including identifying regular shapes such as squares, circles, and triangles), making simple shapes to form larger shapes, cutting shapes into equal parts, etc. 

Students should already be familiar with naming regular shapes and using formal and informal language to analyze and compare them to their Kindergarten math skills. Teaching your children shapes is extremely easy, especially through art. 

4. Sorting And Patterns

Sorting and patterning skills are essential for understanding the nature of mathematics. Children begin by comparing objects and matching like items. First-grade math skills involve understanding relationships among sets, how those sets are represented, and analyzing those sets. 

This process helps us understand and analyze the items. In math, we can sort items in many different ways. Math sporting activities are not just for kindergarten students but can be used as a way to introduce, reinforce or assess a grade-level concept in grades 1-5 as well.


First-grade students are introduced to fractions by gaining an understanding of what a fraction means. Students learn to identify and draw equal parts, divide common shapes into equal parts, match fractions with partitioned shapes, write fractions in words, and write fractions from stories.

You can use the dough to teach kids how to partition fractions themselves. You can also use cookie cutters and then show fractions work with most shapes. First-grade students can also practice their knowledge of shapes and division by dividing various 2-D shapes into equal shares. 

5. Number Place Values

Place value is the value that each digit takes in a number. In the base 10 number system, digits on the left have a bigger place value than those on the right. This might be one of the most confusing yet easy-to-understand concepts for your kids.  

Math for 1st graders worksheets can help students understand our base 10 number system by providing exercises such as identifying tens and ones, rounding, building two-digit numbers, and changing back and forth between “expanded form” and “normal form”.

6. Time

In first-grade math, children learn to tell time to the nearest hour, half-hour, and quarter-hour. They also learn the concept of elapsed time. To help children visualize what these numbers mean, you can use objects such as bears, large dried beans, or craft sticks. 

Telling time is an important life skill that children learn from first grade. They learn how to read both digital and analog clocks. Later on, children will be able to utilize the concept of time to solve tough questions on time and distance.

7. Measurements and Comparisons

First-grade students learn to compare lengths using direct comparison, which means comparing the amount of an attribute in two objects without using a standard measuring tool. 

First-grade students also learn how to measure lengths in non-standard units such as paper clips or blocks. They learn the order of objects by size and compare them. Students also learn how to express the length of an item as a whole number unit.

Learning measurements and comparison help students understand and gain practical knowledge of real-world objects. This way, they will be able to tell why they need to pay more for 3 kg of rice than they have to pay for 1 kg of rice. Simple things like this that they will have to do in their adulthood become easier. 

Related Reading: Best Math Games for Kids That Are Fun to Play

What’s the Objective of Learning Math for First Graders?

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First-grade math helps children understand common numerical relations, compare and order numbers, and compute accurately. First-grade math fluency helps students become better problem solvers and logical thinkers. This knowledge will become the foundation for what they will learn in second-grade math and also expand on what they learned in kindergarten. 

“Mathematics is the science of patterns, and we study it to learn how to think logically, critically, and creatively.” – Jordan Ellenberg

Math teaches children to think logically and systematically, solve problems, and make sense of numbers and patterns. It helps develop critical thinking and reasoning skills, which are essential for success in all areas of life. Some specific objectives of learning 1st-grade math topics are:

  • Basic arithmetic operations: Children should learn how to add and subtract up to twenty and understand the concepts of addition and subtraction.
  • Geometry: Children should learn about basic shapes such as circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles.
  • Data analysis: Children should be able to collect, organize, and represent data using graphs and charts.

How Can You Help Your Child Learn First-Grade Math Better?

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 36% of fourth-grade students in the United States are proficient in math. In addition, a survey conducted by the economists Annamaria Lusardi and Olivia Mitchell found that 70 percent of Americans can’t answer these 3 basic money questions. It is crucial for parents to help their children develop a strong foundation in math from a young age to ensure their success in future academic and professional endeavors.

There are many methods to help your child with first-grade math. You can fill in a number grid puzzle, build objects with legos and measure, and play Number Hunt, Hopscotch, Is It A Number, and Find A counting game for kids

You can also ask basic addition and subtraction problems using treats to keep kids interested. Understanding math milestones is important to strengthen their math skills. If your child is struggling with first-grade math facts, you should talk to your child’s teacher and try to understand the issue.

Three ways you can make learning math easier for your kid are:

  • Visual Aids: Visual tools like pictures, charts, and graphs can help your child understand math concepts better. You can create your own visual aids or use online resources to support your child’s learning.
  • Encourage Problem-Solving: Encourage your child to solve math problems independently. Give them simple math problems to solve at home or ask them to calculate the total cost of their favorite snacks at the grocery store.
  • Make Math Fun: Learning math can be fun if you can make it enjoyable for your child. You can use games, puzzles, and other interactive activities to help your child learn math in a fun and engaging way.
Related Reading: Best Educational Games for Kids by Subjects & Grades

The Ever-Present Math Around Us

The logic of shape, quantity, and order is the subject of mathematics. Every task we perform involves math. Everything in our daily life, including mobile technology, computers, software, ancient and modern architecture, art, money, engineering, and even sports, is built on it. Every advanced civilization has placed mathematical discoveries at the forefront of its culture since the beginning of recorded history. The need for math arose because of increasingly complex demands from societies around the world.

You can help your kid develop a positive attitude toward math by pointing out its practical applications. For example, you can show them how math is used in baking, sports, or even in planning a trip. By doing so, your child will be more motivated to learn math and apply it in real-life situations. In addition, you can also make use of technology to help your child learn math. There are many educational websites and online resources that offer interactive math games, tutorials, and practice exercises. These tools can make learning math more engaging and fun.

Remember that every child has different learning abilities and it’s okay if your child needs extra support or time to master math for 1st graders’ concepts. By providing a supportive and encouraging learning environment, you can help your child build confidence in math and achieve their full potential.

Related Reading: Best Classroom Math Games
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Enhance Your 1st-Grade Child’s Math Skills

Math in the first grade set the stage for future math success. The most important concepts learned in first-grade math include counting, addition and subtraction, shapes, and measurement. Parents can help their children by practicing these concepts at home and using fun games and activities to reinforce them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are some of the most important math concepts that first-graders learn?

First-graders learn to count and write numbers up to 100, basic addition and subtraction, identify and compare shapes, and measure.

How can I help my first-grader with math at home?

Please encourage your child to practice counting and identifying numbers in their everyday life, use objects to help them understand addition and subtraction, and practice identifying shapes and sizes.

What are some fun math games and activities for first-graders?

Playing counting games, using manipulatives like blocks or coins, practicing addition and subtraction with flashcards, and doing measurement activities with household items can all be fun math activities for first-graders.

How can I tell if my first-grader is struggling with math?

If your first-grader needs help with counting or identifying numbers, working with basic addition and subtraction, or having trouble with shapes and measurement, they may need help with math.

Should I be concerned if my first-grader is struggling with math?

If your child is consistently working with math concepts and needs to catch up on their peers, speaking with their teacher or a math tutor may be a good idea to get extra help and support.

Andrew Scholl
Andrew Scholl is an educational expert with over 15 years of teaching experience in elementary and middle school classrooms. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two daughters.