Want to know more about preschool and kindergarten math standards? Let me simplify it for you.
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I don’t know about you, but when I hear standards, my head starts to spin. These days, the word “standards” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
What are standards, anyway?
Standards are broad areas of learning. When we’re talking about math standards, we can look at the five NCTM* content standards. I’ll get to those in a minute.
(*NCTM stands for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. It was the first national organization to create national standards in education.)
Do I really need to know this stuff?
If you’re a classroom teacher, your school may or may not require you to align your curriculum with a particular set of standards. If you’re a homeschooler or teacher with your own independent program, you have a lot of freedom in this area.
But whether or not you’re required to know the standards, you should know them. This knowledge will help you identify what your students are currently doing and be more intentional as you prepare future math activities.
Isn’t early math supposed to be play-based?
Yes. And here’s the good news.
“Mathematics standards align well with a rich, play-based curriculum that is planned and implemented by reflective, knowledgeable teachers.” (More Than Counting, by Sally Moomaw & Brenda Hieronymus).
So what are the math standards for preschool and kindergarten?
Great question. Let’s look at the five NCTM content standards. Most states base their standards on the NCTM model.
1. Number & Operations
Number and Operations is the most important content standard for early childhood. It’s what we tend to focus on the most.
Children move through three states of quantification. (Quantification is just a fancy word for determining “how many.”)
- global – Kids can tell that a friend has more in his snack bowl, but can’t actually count the goldfish crackers.
- one-to-one correspondence – Children line up objects to see which stack has more.
- counting – They count in the normal way.
As children learn to count, they learn important counting principles.
- stable order principle – It’s always 1,2,3,4,5,6,7… It’s not 1,7,6,3,2…
- one-to-one correspondence – When they point to one object, they say one number.
- cardinality – The last number they say is the number of objects in the set.
Children learn to add in three early stages
- counting all – Kids count each set individually before counting all. 1,2,3. 1,2,3,4. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.
- shortcut sum – Children just count each set one time to get to the total. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.
- counting on – They count on from the first number. 3. 4,5,6,7.
Did you know that children do all four math operations in preschool and kindergarten? It just looks a little different.
- addition – They combine sets.
- subtraction – They take away from sets.
- multiplication – They combine sets through repeated addition.
- division – They divide objects among their friends.
Well, we can skip this one right? Whew! Because algebra is just for big kids.
Not so fast!
It’s crucial that we build the foundations of algebra in preschool and kindergarten. It will help children understand sophisticated algebra in later years.
Here are the foundations of algebra. The good news is that they’re fun and simple to teach!
- concept of equality
Geometry is not just identifying shapes. Make sure you’re teaching the following foundational concepts.
- 2D and 3D shapes
- spatial relationships (in front of, behind, next to, etc.)
- transformations (when shapes turn, flip or slide)
While we may start to introduce standard measurement (such as inches) near the end of kindergarten, we spend most of our time on nonstandard measurement.
When children learn to measure, they…
- begin by using language of more or less or big and little.
- learn to put objects in order by size.
- begin to learn to measure objects with nonstandard units (such as unifix cubes or plastic links).
- eventually measure with standard units, such as inches or centimeters.
5. Data Analysis and Probability
If you’re doing large class graphs with your students, you’re on the right track. Graph how they get to school, favorite types of apples, or whether or not they have a pet.
Kids learn a ton through class graphs!
- one-to-one correspondence
- set comparison
A few tips for creating class graphs
- Always graph from the bottom to the top.
- Create a set of strips with student names on them. This way students can put their own name on the graph to indicate their preference.
- Make sure you choose a subject that matters to your students.