First Grade Math Activities

Valorie Delp
An abacus is useful for teaching place value.

If you have a first grader, you may be wondering about first grade math activities. Not only do you need to know what to cover, but you also need creative ways to present the material.

Teaching First Grade Math Activities

First graders do not have the longest attention span. For this reason, it is better to plan on reintroducing topics repeatedly until they are mastered, rather than insisting that the concepts be mastered in one or two sessions.

You also want to strive towards presenting material in a natural context, making math fun and easy. For example, present counting in ways that encourage the child to "play" with numbers by playing store, counting something you see while you're out and about or showing your child how math is used in everyday activities such as cooking.

First Grade Math

Based on Worldbook's Typical Course of Study in math for first graders, here are a few suggested activities to help your child excel in the area of math.


By the end of first grade, children should be able to:

  • Count and write the numbers up to 100.
  • Count by 2's to 40.
  • Understand ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.)

One great activity to work on counting skills is to do a countdown to a special holiday or day. The special day in question cannot be too far away because otherwise your first grader will lose interest. Make old fashioned paper rings by cutting out two-inch wide strips of construction paper (lengthwise), and gluing or taping the ends together. Before making the rings, write on each paper strip the number, the word for the number, and a pictorial representation of the number in question. So for example, the first strip would say "1", "one" and then have a picture of one thing. Practice counting every day and increase each day. Over time you can increase the length of rings.


Patterns are all around us. Recognizing patterns, both numerically and geometrically, is actually a very important higher order thinking skill to develop. Over the course of first grade, children should learn to recognize patterns that they see in numbers, patterns that they see in shapes, and along with that be able to group and categorize shapes (or numbers) into like categories. To practice try some of these activities:

  • Using at least two stamps, make alternating patterns on your child's paper and then ask him/her to finish the pattern. For example, you can stamp a circle then a triangle, then a circle. Then ask your child what should come next.
  • Tessellations are a great way to help your child see the order in various patterns. You can make your own tessellations by cutting apart a piece of paper in interesting and jagged edges. You can also check out these tessellation puzzles.


Computation is, for some kids, extremely difficult to master. The trick to making it painless is not in rote use of flashcards (although flashcards can certainly be helpful), but rather in introducing addition and subtraction in such a way as to make computation seem easy. Using either beans, teddy bear counters or some other type of manipulative, allow your child to "count" answers to simple addition and subtraction problems. Have your child write down each part of the problem, find the answer counting with the manipulatives and then saying the entire problem out loud. Saying and writing the problem helps reinforce the fact even further.

First Grade Math Activities Online

If you are still looking for other activities to do with your first grade you can check out some of these resources:

  • AAAMath - A fairly comprehensive and systematic selection of activities for math.
  • Jump Start - A virtual world based on the popular Jump Start software. You can register for free, but there is also a membership option. Math is one of several topics.
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First Grade Math Activities