First Grade Math: What Does Your Child Need to Know?

What first grade math skills are children expected to learn? Here is an overview of what kids need to know.


First Grade Math on Abacus First graders are still developing their counting skills. By the end of first grade, they should be counting to 100 by ones. They should also be skip counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s (important for later multiplication), and be able to count backwards starting on any number up to 100 (a skill that will be used in subtraction).

Number Sense and Place Value

Number sense is all about getting a "feel" for numbers, which is especially important in these foundational stages of learning first grade math. Here are some examples of what kids will be expected to learn:

  • They can say what number comes right after another, or right before it.
  • They can identify odd and even numbers.
  • They can use a number line or counters to solve problems.
  • They estimate amounts of objects and use words like "about", "close to", and "a little less than."
  • They compare numbers as greater than, less than, or equal to each other.

They will also begin to understand place value, the idea that numbers can represent "tens" or "ones" depending on where they are in the number, so that 3 can stand for "thirty" in 32, or for "three" in 23. Many kids need math help in this area.

Addition and Subtraction

Adding Number Line First graders will memorize addition facts and subtraction facts up to 20. They will also learn all the most important addition and subtraction tricks and strategies:

  • Counting on: Start with a large number, and add on to it by counting.
  • Counting down: Start at the larger number and count backwards to the smaller one.
  • Doubling: Use doubles like 4+4 or 2+2 to solve problems.
  • Reversals: Kids understand that 3+4 is the same as 4+3.
  • Fact Families: Know that addition and subtraction facts like 5+1=6, 1+5=6, 6-1=5 and 6-5=1 are all related.

First graders will also start to solve simple addition and subtraction problems in their head, do addition and subtraction word problems, add columns of numbers, and begin working with place value concepts and regrouping (also known as "carrying" or "borrowing").

Time, Money, and Measurement

Six year olds are still developing a sense of time, and some will still be working on the days of the week. Measuring Tape They will learn to tell time to the hour and half hour, and will get a better sense of how long a minute is.

First graders will learn to count coins and use money to buy objects under a dollar. They will measure objects informally with things like string or paper clips, and learn to use a ruler and measuring cups.

Fractions and Division

What, you didn't know they do fractions already in first grade math? Yes indeedy. Many of us needed math help when we were learning fractions, and your kids probably will, too. First graders should be able to identify the fractions one-half, one-third, one-fourth, and one-fifth, either in pieces of a whole, or parts of a group. Some kids will grasp the concept so well that they can identify fractions like two-thirds, and may understand that one-half is bigger than one-third.

They are able to identify equal parts, and can divide objects up evenly (fairly) between up to 10 people.


In first grade geometry, children will be asked to identify and draw circles, squares, rectangles and triangles. They count sides and corners, and can put shapes together or break them apart to make new shapes. They also learn to recognize and name 3D figures like cube, sphere, prism, pyramid, and cylinder. Because geometry carries with it so much new vocabulary, it is good to become familiar with the terms and use them often throughout the year to give kids time to learn them naturally.

Find out more about the area of first grade math your child is working on by visiting one of the math pages below.


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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
~John Dewey