Much like in preschool, your kindergartener is learning the fundamentals of counting, measuring, sorting, and number operations. But kindergarten children are expected to work more independently, more quickly, and with less prompting from adults. By practicing math concepts at home as well as in the classroom, your child will gain the confidence necessary to meet the challenges of new math challenges.
Just what are kinders expected to know? Just like in the older grades, standards for what is expected in kindergarten vary from state to state, district to district, and even classroom to classroom. To help children learn the appropriate math skills, the most important thing parents can do is to communicate with the teacher to find out what skills will be introduced, and what will be expected from their child. With that in mind, keep a lookout for the following fairly universal kindergarten concepts.
Counting Children will now be expected to look at a group of five or fewer objects and quickly tell how many are there, without stopping to count each one aloud. Also, children will be expected to count out loud at least up to twenty. But don’t automatically stop there! Encourage your child to count as high as she can, and demonstrate as often as possible. Even moments like snack time offer a practice opportunity: trying grouping and counting small pieces, such as pretzel sticks, for added practice.
Numbers In addition to counting aloud to higher numbers than he did in preschool, your child will be expected to write the numerals zero to nine legibly. Opportunities to practice counting are easy to find, but your child may be reluctant to sit and write numbers repeatedly. Try having him practice on a small chalkboard with colored chalk or purchase bath paints and let him practice on the shower walls during bath time.
Currency In kindergarten, money will be introduced and your child will learn the values of pennies, dimes, nickels, and possibly quarters and dollars as well. Let your child help you count out change when buying ice cream, or make a game of dumping all the extra change from your pockets and sorting it with your child. Children love to play pretend at this age, so be sure to have "play money" on hand and incorporate coin values into make-believe play.
Time Children will begin to compare units of time based on relative size. For example, they will learn a week is made up of days, and a month is shorter than a year. To practice, try talking about schedules frequently. Give your child her own calendar and help her keep track of meaningful days on it. Begin by looking each morning to see if it's a school day or a home day, then progress to "dance lessons are Thursday nights" and "in two weeks (or 14 days) we visit Grandma."
Measurement Children will continue to use non-standard measurements (i.e. how many paperclips long is the folder). They may also begin to make small measurements in inches using a ruler. The most fun thing to measure is always a child's own height, but try checking how many inches long his foot is and comparing it to how many inches long a family member's foot is, or measuring the length of favorite toys.
Number Operations Children will continue to practice joining groups and dividing sets equally. But they will also begin to acquire the proper terminology of add, subtract, plus, minus, and equals. Using blocks, you can "build" number sentences with your child. Pick a small number of blocks, build a small tower and count the results together. Then remove a few blocks or divide the tower into two, creating subtraction or division problems.
As kindergarteners master concepts and move on to new challenges, they begin to understand just how numbers work rather than just following steps or repeating answers. Encourage independence in your child’s thinking, and watch his math skills grow!