# First Grade Math is the first Step toward a Strong Math Literacy Future

Young children use mathematical concepts naturally. As they grow and develop, they feel compelled to compare toy similarities and differences, sort them by size or color, arrange blocks and count dolls or cars. Their curiosity about their environment and innate ability to question everyone and everything sets them on a course for learning and understanding numbers. As teachers and parents, it is an overwhelming job to school young minds in all mathematical concepts. However, using a computer math game at school or home will help build a foundation for future math literacy.

See Numbers in Different Ways

By the time children reach first grade math, they have a rich understanding of counting strategies, cause and effect and simple addition and subtraction. The time they spent as preschoolers and kindergarteners strengthened their organizational skills. Now, in first grade math, the work begins on developing a complex understanding of numbers and reasoning skills. Most first grade children understand 4+1=5. Do they know 2+3=5? Using a mathrack virtual manipulative, children can build the same number in different ways and use several strategies to solve this problem. Plus, they can use the commutative property, which is 2+3=3+2, and doubles or near doubles, such as 2+2=3+1. Analyzing numbers in this fashion allows students to further strengthen their basic understanding of numbers and computation and establishes knowledge to build upon for future math concepts.

Greater Than vs. Less Than

Targeting a child’s natural ability to compare and contrast is natural and vital to preparing them for more difficult math and algebraic concepts in future school years. An entertaining first grade math computer game uses an alligator as the greater than/less than symbol while simultaneously entertaining and teaching children to build number comparisons. The child is shown two numbers, side by side, and instructed to choose either the greater number or the lesser number. After a few turns with this exercise, the child is then instructed to select which direction the alligator should face for a greater number or lesser number.

The process repeats after the response until the game is able to determine if the child understands the concept. The game either increases or decreases the value of the number based on the child’s responses. First grade math games like this one challenge understanding of the values of numbers based on their placement in the number. For example, compare place value of the number 3 in 23 and 32. Games like these further build on a child’s ability to use logic and reason, which strengthens their problem solving ability for future math activities.

Number Relationships

One of the most mundane activities students endure when practicing math facts is the math drill. However, first grade math computer games have a new approach with a set of related problems that show the relationships between problems. They are called string lessons. Using 10s facts, such as 10+2 or 9+3, children view the relationship between the facts and learn how the sum of 12 is not exclusive to only one addition fact. The problem is shown on the screen and the child clicks on the appropriate box containing the correct answer. Once an answer is clicked, the game responds with a cheerful voice saying “Correct” or “Oops, try again.” Other string lessons include 9s, 11s and 12s facts, as well as doubles and near doubles.

As the child plays, the game adjusts problem complexity and difficulty depending on the frequency of correct or incorrect responses. Drills become more fun and solving equations is effortless. Children do not realize they are learning through active play and repetition. Their comfort levels and knowledge of numbers increases as they further develop mental flexibility and problem-solving techniques that they will need to master for future math problems in higher grade levels.

Establishing a mathematical mind early in life is essential for children to be successful in all content areas in school. Even though mathematical development varies with each child, math literacy is a pathway to future jobs in science, engineering and technology. The skills gained with first grade math games on a computer help children think logically, have high self-esteem and become independent thinkers and problem-solvers. These characteristics are important for any child to possess, regardless of their chosen career path.