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Great Ways to Help First Graders Master Addition Facts

What Kids Need to Learn

First graders will need to learn addition facts from 0+0 to 10+10. They should understand various math strategies to help them solve more quickly, and have the addition math facts to 20 memorized, without the need to count, by the end of the 1st grade.

Putting the Math in Context

In kindergarten, kids were introduced to the concept of addition and began learning math facts up to 10.

In first grade, children will be introduced to the + sign and learn addition facts up to 20. They will learn many different strategies for remembering these math facts, and will move onto harder addition skills: adding 2-digit numbers, adding columns of three or more numbers, and adding money.

In second grade, children will add larger numbers and learn regrouping.

Why It’s Important

If lifelong math learning were a house, addition math facts would be the strong base of its foundation. When addition skills are strong, and addition facts become automatic, everything that comes after-subtraction, multiplication, computation skills-will become much easier and smoother.

Math Challenges Kids Might Face

Many first graders are ok adding numbers until they run out of fingers; in a problem like 6+8, once they get to 10 they are not sure what to do next. Most need exposure to several kinds of addition strategies, but without plenty of hands-on practice, the strategies themselves can be confusing. Some kids might need a lot more time counting and adding with objects before the written addition makes sense to them; others will need to say all problems out loud.

Some children will have a very hard time memorizing math facts, especially if they are presented mainly through drill and flash cards. In order to make addition facts accessible to every child, teachers and parents may need to be quite creative in finding new ways to teach and practice them.

How to Help With the Math

Do not teach several different facts at one time. Move slowly through the facts and give plenty of time for each.

Teach “turn-arounds” together: 5+2 and 2+5 are the same problem, switched around backwards.
Give kids a way to keep track of the math facts they have mastered. Seeing written progress is a great motivator.

Play lots of addition games. They give good practice and keep kids motivated and excited about learning math facts.

Incorporate short, daily drills or targeted speed practice.

It’s not all about memorization; give plenty of practice adding together physical objects so kids understand the concept as well.

Approach addition from every angle you can think of. Physical (jump rope rhymes), auditory (songs or chants), visual (drawing or pictures), tactile (hopscotch games or counters), even taste (adding with food). Find what works for your child.

Teach addition strategies systematically, and spend lots of time doing hands-on work to understand the concepts. These strategies will be useful for many other math skills in the future.

Tell math stories about kids who got more of something, lost something, had less of something, etcetera. When math doesn’t make sense, the stories often will.

Whiz Kids

If addition really is not posing much of a problem for your child and you need to keep her challenged, try these:

– do the activities above, but use larger numbers
– reinforce adding skills by playing fun addition games
– focus more heavily on teaching addition strategies, which will be a big help when learning harder addition
– draw out connections between addition problems and their related subtraction facts

Smart First Graders