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Your kindergartner and math

Object lessons: Kindergartners kick-start math with blocks, bottle caps, and dice.

By GreatSchools Staff

Last fall results from national math exams stirred up a tempest in a standardized test. It turns out math scores rose more quickly before No Child Left Behind was implemented, and fourth-grade math scores haven’t improved since 2007. As reported in the New York Times, the achievement gap remains a chasm between the haves and the have-nots.

What does this mean for your child? While pundits and politicians battle over the big issues, it's up to parents to stay on top of the little ones: their own kids' academic development. Keep tabs on what your kindergartner should learn in math this year with our grade-based milestones. Of course, math curricula still vary widely from state to state as school districts grapple with how to implement the Common Core Standards, so these are merely guidelines. For a better sense of how your child's schoolwork compares, look up your state's math standards, see what the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommends for preschool through high school, or read through the Common Core Standards for math.

In the classroom

What math concepts will your kindergartner learn?

Kindergartners are expected to get an early start on mastering mathematical concepts by playing with blocks, tiles, and other objects that can be counted, classified, and sorted. With an array of objects in hand, kids learn that adding means counting forward and subtracting means counting backward.

Kindergartners also learn how to group objects in a variety of ways — by color, shape, and size — which helps them begin to understand multiplication and fractions.

By practicing counting from one to 10, kindergartners gradually build up their number faculties. By the end of the year, they'll be expected to count to numbers greater than 10 and to count by fives (5, 10, 15, 20, etc.) and by tens (10, 20, 30, etc.).

Many kindergarten teachers start the day with "calendar time," teaching concepts of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

From fractions to geometry

Kindergartners will also be introduced to simple fractions and geometry. A teacher might ask students to count the number of slices in a pizza or ask them to identify shapes in the classroom like circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles.

"Math at this time in a child's life is full of explorations both in and outside the classroom," explains Nicola Salvatico, the 2005 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year. "Taking advantage of real-life connections helps a child move from the concrete to the abstract facets of learning math."

Getting acquainted with measurement, money, and time

Your child's teacher is likely to introduce the class to thinking about money, time, and measurement. Don't expect a kindergartner to use tools like rulers; instead, kids learn about distance by using their hands and feet as a basis for measurement. For example, they might be asked to compare the number of steps it takes to walk to the reading corner with the number required to reach the drinking fountain.

Kindergartners also pick up a few money skills and should be able to identify and count coins, including pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. To help children learn about capital, some classrooms might have a play store set up with toy cash registers (for a popular model, see "Top-10 Educational Toys") chock-full of play money.

Kids at this age begin learning about time by working with analog and digital clocks. Students should be able to identify the big hand and little hand on an analog clock, tell time to the hour, and understand that when the big hand is on the 12, it means "o'clock."

Comments from readers

"Great tips. Very helpful. Now we have a good idea for how to help our kid. Thank you!"
"Thanks for giving the exact cirriculum, it helps the parents to prepare and help kids at home."
"Excellent, My pre-K child is already doing many of the things listed in this article; this assures me she’s on the right track."
"Thank you for sending me information about my Kindergartner. I found the information to be very useful. My five year old is at this stage now. Please keep me updated. Thank you again. "
"I share a similar thought that one of the concerned mom has mentioned below, my son knows all the concepts mentioned & much more than that, Iam sure he will be bored in this school year as it will all be repetative for him , hope the school system in Texas has something to do about such kids where the birthday is not an hinderance to their academic achievment & growth"
"i just think greatschools is the best website because my child learned so fast. and also he started to enjoy math than before!"
"thabks this idea is good to improve my child's ability..."
"thank u for all your articles,it helps me a lot in preparing my 5 year old.i always look forward for more kindergarten topics.i tried using numbers in all the day to day activities,and it is working. thank you."
"While I agree with you on the sequence of developmentaly appropriate math concepts, school district pacing plans prohibit teachers from letting students learn at their own pace. This is also true in language arts."
"thank you for this ...i feel relived! :)"
"This information is great to receive. I'd love to get kindergarten information on other subjects too. I also have a child in the sixth grade I'd like to receive information on too."
"Very interesting. It helps to realize that teaching styles have changed since we were in kindergarten. "
"Thank you for all of this wonderful information. I'm an elementary school teacher and feel that understanding mathematical concepts rather than memorizing them is crucial. I've also found that having children make real-life connections with math makes learning math much more enjoyable, especially for the children that find math challenging. "
"My son is 5 years old and he started Kindergarten this year! After reading your article, I realized my son already knows his shapes, colors, counts way past 10 (up to 1000 in English & 100 in Spanish and we're not of Spanish decent), knows how to tell time, counts by even numbers and odd numbers(2,4,6...&1,3, on), and knows how to do addition & subtraction. So based on his knowledge will he get bored in school? Is there an advanced testing at that age? He's in public school...should I transfer him to a Private school like a Montessori program? I'd hate for him to go through an entire year of school and not learn anything! Please advise! Concerned mother of a Kindergartner"
"Thank you for these great tips to utilize with my son, who is is 5 years old. He is a very strong reader, but has acknowledged that math is more difficult for him. I look forward to engaging him in these activities!"