What do the Mathematical Practices Look Like in First Grade?

Standards for Mathematical Practice
Explanations and Examples

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
Mathematically proficient students in First Grade continue to develop the ability to focus attention, test hypotheses, take reasonable risks, remain flexible, try alternatives, exhibit self-regulation, and persevere (Copley, 2010). As the teacher uses thoughtful questioning and provides opportunities for students to share thinking, First Grade students become conscious of what they know and how they solve problems. They make sense of task-type problems, find an entry point or a way to begin the task, and are willing to try other approaches when solving the task. They ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” First Grade students’ conceptual understanding builds from their experiences in Kindergarten as they continue to rely on concrete manipulatives and pictorial representations to solve a problem, eventually becoming fluent and flexible with mental math as a result of these experiences.

2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
Mathematically proficient students in First Grade recognize that a number represents a specific quantity. They use numbers and symbols to represent a problem, explain thinking, and justify a response. For example, when solving the problem: “There are 60 children on the playground. Some children line up. There are 20 children still on the playground. How many children lined up?” first grade students may write 20 + 40 = 60 to indicate a Think-Addition strategy. Other students may illustrate a counting-on b tens strategy by writing 20 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 = 60. The numbers and equations written illustrate the students’ thinking and thestrategies used, rather than how to simply compute, and how the story is decontextualized as it is represented abstractly withsymbols.

3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
Mathematically proficient students in First Grade continue to develop their ability to clearly express, explain, organize and consolidate their math thinking using both verbal and written representations. Their understanding of grade appropriate vocabulary helps them to construct viable arguments about mathematics. For example, when justifying why a particular shape isn’t a square, a first grade student may hold up a picture of a rectangle, pointing to the various parts, and reason, “It can’t be a square because, even though it has 4 sides and 4 angles, the sides aren’t all the same size.” In a classroom where risk-taking and varying perspectives are encouraged, mathematically proficient students are willing and eager to share their ideas with others, consider other ideas proposed by classmates, and question ideas that don’t seem to make sense.

4. Model with mathematics.
Mathematically proficient students in First Grade model real-life mathematical situations with a number sentence or an equation, and check to make sure that their equation accurately matches the problem context. They also use tools, such as tables, to help collect information, analyze results, make conclusions, and review their conclusions to see if the results make sense and revising as needed.

5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
Mathematically proficient students in First Grade have access to a variety of concrete (e.g. 3-dimensional solids, ten frames, number balances, number lines) and technological tools (e.g., virtual manipulatives, calculators, interactive websites) and use them to investigate mathematical concepts. They select tools that help them solve and/or illustrate solutions to a problem. They recognize that multiple tools can be used for the same problem- depending on the strategy used. For example, a child who is in the counting stage may choose connecting cubes to solve a problem. While, a student who understands parts of number, may solve the same problem using ten-frames to decompose numbers rather than using individual connecting cubes. As the teacher provides numerous opportunities for students to use educational materials, first grade students’ conceptual understanding and higher-order thinking skills are developed.

6. Attend to precision.
Mathematically proficient students in First Grade attend to precision in their communication, calculations, and measurements. They are able to describe their actions and strategies clearly, using grade-level appropriate vocabulary accurately. Their explanations and reasoning regarding their process of finding a solution becomes more precise. In varying types of mathematical tasks, first grade students pay attention to details as they work. For example, as students’ ability to attend to position and direction develops, they begin to notice reversals of numerals and self-correct when appropriate. When measuring an object, students check to make sure that there are not any gaps or overlaps as they carefully place each unit end to end to measure the object (iterating length units). Mathematically proficient first grade students understand the symbols they use (=, >,<) and use clear explanations in discussions with others. For example, for the sentence 4 > 3, a proficient student who is able to attend to precision states, “Four is more than 3” rather than “The alligator eats the four. It’s bigger.”

7. Look for and make use of structure.
Mathematically proficient students in First Grade carefully look for patterns and structures in the number system and other areas of mathematics. For example, while solving addition problems using a number balance, students recognize that regardless whether you put the 7 on a peg first and then the 4, or the 4 on first and then the 7, they both equal 11 (commutative property). When decomposing two-digit numbers, students realize that the number of tens they have constructed ‘happens’ to coincide with the digit in the tens place. When exploring geometric properties, first graders recognize that certain attributes are critical (number of sides, angles), while other properties are not (size, color, orientation).

8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
Mathematically proficient students in First Grade begin to look for regularity in problem structures when solving mathematical tasks. For example, when adding three one-digit numbers and by making tens or using doubles, students engage in future tasks looking for opportunities to employ those same strategies. Thus, when solving 8+7+2, a student may say, “I know that 8 and 2 equal 10 and then I add 7 more. That makes 17. It helps to see if I can make a 10 out of 2 numbers when I start.” Further, students use repeated reasoning while solving a task with multiple correct answers. For example, in the task “There are 12 crayons in the box. Some are red and some are blue. How many of each could there be?” First Grade students realize that the 12 crayons could include 6 of each color (6+6 = 12), 7 of one color and 5 of another (7+5 = 12), etc. In essence, students repeatedly find numbers that add up to 12.