How to Help Your First Grader with Counting and Addition

Subtraction counting

Helping your kid improve their counting skills is great.

Helping them master addition is great.

But combining them both is amazing!

Strong counting and addition skills will make your kid feel as though they have math superpowers!

If you’re looking for ways to help your first grader improve their counting and addition skills, this post is for you! We’ll show you five easy-to-follow strategies that you can use right now to maximize your child’s progress in math.

These strategies are widely used in Singapore primary schools and the top tuition centers in Singapore. They are regarded as being some of the best tuition assignments for teachers and parents alike, as they work just as well at home as they do in school.


Then read on to find out exactly how to help your first grader master counting and addition!

#1. Practice counting with Montessori counting rods
One of the best ways to support first-grade math learning at home is to use brightly colored Montessori counting rods. A standard set comes with ten rods featuring two alternating colors such as red and blue. The first rod is the shortest with just one block of color to represent the number one. The next rod has two equally sized colors to represent the number ‘two’, and so on.

Don’t have counting rods? Make your own from connecting cubes instead!

Set aside a few minutes and sit down with your kid to practice counting these rods. Put a big container out and ask your child to pick up the ‘one’ rod and count aloud “One”. Then have them put the block into the container. Move onto the ‘two’ rod and ask your kid to count aloud; “One, two”. Ask them to point to the different colors as they count, before putting the block into the container.

Before long, they’ll be confidently counting to ten and you can move onto more challenging numbers. Montessori counting rods are widely used among top tuition centers in Singapore and are great for having fun at home too!

#2. Work math into family activities
As a busy parent, finding time to focus on math can be challenging, especially if you have a full schedule. However, letting your kid explore math in the world around them is one of the best ways of helping them improve their counting and addition skills.

So, pick an everyday family activity and find a creative way to work some math into it!

For example, if you go shopping and bring home some vegetables, why not have your child count them to find out how many you have? Better still, they can count on from the number of vegetables you already have at home, to find the total number.

This is a fun way of letting your kid improve their ability to count on in ones and makes a great family activity too!

#3. Practice linking number cards to objects
When your child is confidently counting on in ones, you can help them improve their understanding of written numbers. Many first graders are still strengthening their understanding of important concepts such as the fact that the digit ‘0’ represents ‘nothing’. To help, you can make your own set of number cards!

Link number or number cards to objects such as colored blocks.

Simply cut out 11 rectangular pieces of paper or card and write one number word and its corresponding number on each card. Start with ‘0’ and ‘Zero’ on the first card and so on until you reach ten. Alternatively, you can buy a set of number cards from a store, just like you’d find at any top tuition centre in Singapore.

A superb number activity is to put the Montessori counting rods on a table and ask your child to order them from smallest to greatest. When they finish, hand them the number cards and have them place each card next to the corresponding rod.

If you don’t have rods, you can use any household items such as coins, buttons or even toy blocks and ask your child to group the correct number of objects on or near the number cards. Lay out the cards in a line from ‘One’ to ‘Ten’ and have your kid put the correct number of objects next to each card. This is a fun and effective way of helping your first grader to develop their number sense.

#4. Use to introduce and support addition
Games are one of the best ways to help your kid improve their knowledge and understanding of addition. Top tuition centres in Singapore and many home math tutors often use a variety of dice, card, and board games during their lessons to kick-start progress and help kids develop a love for math.

Some great games you can try at home include:

  • Checkers
  • Chinese Checkers
  • Uno
  • Mancala
  • Snakes and Ladders (or Chutes and Ladders)

Any board games that get your kid counting board steps will work great as they will strengthen your kid’s ability to count on in ones. If your child is already confidently counting on in ones, you can move to something more challenging such as dominoes, which helps practice counting by 5’s.

#5. Introduce online math games
Most kids love computers so it’s always worth looking online for math games that help teach counting and addition strategies. Sites such as IXL are fun, engaging and simple enough for most kids to complete independently after a while. They are jam-packed full of entertaining activities that will help your child count in ones, twos, fives, and tens up to a variety of numbers such as 10, 20, 30 and even 100!

After a while, you can let your kids practice independently and they’ll soon be powering their way towards mastery of their first-grade counting and addition goals!

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