9 Tips to Prepare Your Child for Primary 1 Maths

Starting Primary 1 is one of the major milestones for your child and it can be exciting and stressful at the same time. Your child has to cope with many changes including a new routine at a new school as well as a bigger class size. He also has to learn to handle money and buy lunch etc, on top of the greater emphasis on academics.

Although the Primary 1 maths curriculum assumes that children have minimal prior knowledge of maths, knowing these 9 basic maths skills will help your child ease into Primary 1 maths:

1. Understanding and comparing the size of length of two objects

Understanding and comparing the size of length of two objects, using the terms, ‘bigger than’, ‘smaller than’, ‘longer than’ or ‘shorter than’. Use everyday objects, or cut out strips of different coloured paper to show varying sizes or lengths.

2. Identifying and naming basic shapes

Identifying and naming basic shapes like square, rectangle, circle and triangle. Use manipulates or draw, colour and cut out the shapes. Look for everyday objects to highlight shapes, like a round plate or square photo frame. Do not talk about spheres, cubes etc. at this stage yet.

3. Rote counting from 1 to 20

Rote counting from 1 to 20 at the minimum, just like reciting the alphabet. Going beyond 20 is possible,depending on the child’s ability. You may just count or sing to catchy sing-along videos online. Playing Snakes and Ladders, Ludo or any counting game would be good as well.

4. Counting objects, reading and writing from 1 to 20 in numerals

Counting objects, reading and writing numbers from 1 to 20 in numerals. If possible, write in words from one to ten. Do not worry about the spelling too much at this age. This can be followed by number sequence exercises, for example, 1, _, 3, 4, _, …

5. Comparing quantities and numbers

Comparing quantities and numbers, for instance, identifying which set has more things or less things. Use manipulates and pictures to show. Then, move on to the abstract, for example, 5 is greater/lesser than 9.

6. Understanding the concept of number bonds

Understanding the concept of number bonds. Start with single digit numbers up to 5. Slowly, if possible, move up to 10. Number bonds will allow the child to ‘see’ that a number is made up of parts e.g. 2 and 3 make 5. Going forward, this will be useful for learning addition and subtraction. In the beginning, use manipulates like animal counters, or toys like construction bricks.

7. Adding and subtracting within 10

Adding and subtracting within 10. Here, using manipulates like linked-cubes to illustrate. For addition, use ‘counting on’ strategy. For instance, for ‘3 + 2’, use 3 cubes and count on another 2 cubes. As for subtraction, ‘3 – 2’, use 3 cubes and take away 2 and count the remaining cube. You may have your child use fingers to count as well.

8. Introduce multiplication as a concept of adding the same number many times over

Although it is not necessary to introduce multiplication at this stage, you may wish to introduce multiplication as a concept of ‘adding the same number many times over’. In the example of ‘two times table’, to explain ‘2 x 2’, you may use 2 cups with 2 marbles in each cup and add ‘2 + 2’ to get ‘4’. For ‘3 x 2’, use 3 cups with 2 marbles in each cup to illustrate ‘2 + 2 + 2’ to get ‘6’…the same goes for ‘5 x 2’ and so on. Once your child understands the concepts, memorising the multiplication tables would be more meaningful later on.

9. Introduce division as a concept of sharing equally

Again, it is not necessary to introduce division yet, but if you would like your child to learn the concept, introduce it as ‘sharing equally’. For instance, tell a story: Paul has 4 sweets to be shared equally with his sister. How many will he and his sister get? Draw 2 circles to represent each child. Take 4 sweets and ‘share’ in the circles to show Paul and sister would get 2 each.

When teaching young children maths, use objects, followed by drawing pictures before introducing maths terms and symbols. Make it interesting by asking probing questions hence directing them to find the answer by themselves. After all, mathematics is about problem solving. It is not about learning procedure or memory work. For young children to be successful in maths, number concepts must be taught right.

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