Facility in math is recognized by educators as being key to later success in
life. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has set ten content
standards for the teaching and learning of mathematics from prekindergarten
through twelfth grade.
The standards in this series refer to the entire range of grades.
Examples, however, are for prekindergarten to second grade, which includes the
grade I teach.
The NCTM publication Principles and Standards for School Mathematics
has complete explanations of these. For more information, you may visit NCTM at
Bullet points are quotations from the publication. Underneath them are my
suggestions for parents.
principles and standards, part 3
The instructional programs should enable all students to:
characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional geometric
shapes and develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships.
locations and describe spatial relationships using coordinate geometry and
other representational systems.
transformations and use symmetry to analyze mathematical situations.
visualization, spatial reasoning, and geometric modeling to solve problems.
Early experience in this area lays the groundwork for formal learning
that will come later. At this age, children learn the names of shapes, compare
them to objects they see around them, and describe which ones are similar and
Children who recognize landmarks on a route that you regularly take are
already showing this ability. Terminology to use with youngsters to build this
type of relationship will be in the areas of direction (which way?), distance
(how far?), location (where?), and representation (what objects?).
They use these techniques already when they try to solve jigsaw puzzles,
as they turn pieces around to try to get them to fit into the given areas. You
can look for symmetrical designs around you: when you are standing in front of a
car, you draw an imaginary vertical line down the middle to see that each side
is symmetrical. However, when you view the car from the side, the front and back
are not symmetrical.
One of our favorite dinnertime games in our family was a help in
reinforcing this skill. A member of the family closed her eyes while another
person changed something that was on the table. We called this game “What’s
different?” and it was a challenge to determine what had changed on the table.