Playing With Numbers: Kindergarten Math

Expect your 5-year-old to get a hands-on introduction to basic kindergarten math concepts.



Playing With Numbers: Kindergarten Math

The primary way kids learn math in today’s kindergarten classrooms isn’t that different from how it was taught years ago — children are introduced to basic math concepts through play. These days, however, your child is apt to be taught her 123s in a more structured (though still highly kid-friendly) way. The trend in math education is for kids to follow the same topical areas throughout their school years, beginning with kindergarten math. As a result, you can expect your child to be introduced, in very broad strokes, to these subject areas:

  • Number sense
  • Algebra
  • Measurement and geometry
  • Statistics, data analysis, and probability
  • Mathematical reasoning

It may sound like curriculum better suited to a big kid than a small fry, but not to worry. A visitor to a kindergarten math session today would never mistake the lively, interactive, and tactile experience for a hard-core math lesson. Kindergarten math teachers use what are called manipulatives — toys and other objects that kids can pick up and play with — in an unending variety of creative ways to bring math concepts to life and to reinforce understanding. 

  • Learning the Basics
    The first kindergarten math subject area, number sense, includes being able to count, represent, name, write, and order objects up to 30. Kindergarteners learn to recognize which numbers are missing from a list, and identify more, less, or equal to.
    Estimation, a facet of number sense that educators increasingly recognize as vital for math prowess, is introduced in kindergarten. A popular activity is the estimation jar, which kids take turns bringing home, filling with small objects, and returning to school, where classmates try to guess the correct number.
    Also under number sense, the concept of simple single-digit addition and subtraction is introduced. The emphasis is on using groups of objects, not columns of numbers yet, to help kids grasp the idea of adding and taking away. 
  • Picturing Kindergarten Math Ideas
    Algebra in kindergarten is simply learning to identify, sort, and classify objects by their characteristics, and to recognize patterns. Teachers may give students a strip of paper with a “code” — for example, abb abb abb. Kids are asked to use objects or picture cards to fit the pattern, such as frog, bear, bear; frog, bear, bear; frog, bear, bear.
    Geometry and measurement are equally kindergarten-friendly. In addition to recognizing different shapes, teachers strive to show that objects have properties such as length and weight, and that you can measure and compare these properties. (Which container is holding more water?) Rulers are not yet required; the teacher may simply ask “how many cubes tall” the block tower is.
    The last topics — statistics, data analysis and probability, and mathematical reasoning — include learning to collect math information, set up problems, and explain how a problem was solved. These higher concepts run throughout kindergarten math lessons.
Problem Solving
Sorting and Classifying
Logic and Reasoning
What to Expect by Grade
Age 5
Number Sense
Counting and Numbers
Statistics and Probability
Data Analysis
Addition and Subtraction
Early Math