1st Grade Homeschool Math

A quick note about a resource you may like:

The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Years is for all parents of young students who are beginning to homeschool or who are in their early elementary years. Homeschooling young children doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, and this no-fuss resource will show you how. It will guide you on how to create an ideal environment that will honor your child’s natural desire to learn as well as how to foster creativity and tips on setting priorities.

This resource also answers many questions that new homeschoolers have, such as What are my kids supposed to learn? What resources should I use? How do I meet other homeschoolers? And much more.

Thanks so much to my readers for inspiring me to write this. I hope it helps.

Click here to view the Table of Contents and Introduction.

Click here to purchase.

Now back to the original post….


Read these posts to see how we’ve made it this far in math:

I’m a firm believer that you need to find whatever works for you and your child. Don’t be scared to try different things until you find what works!

Last year we completed through Chapter 13 (out of 19) in Life of Fred: Cats, which is the third book in that series.  My son loves Life of Fred. It is story-based, quirky, and you can access the link to my review of it above.  Using it as a guide, I found other ways to practice the math concepts he was learning in that book. But by Chapter 13, it just got too hard for him, so I stopped.*

Part of the reason the book got hard was not because of the math. Because Life of Fred is a story, the author brings in anecdotes about other things, which is interesting and educational, but for my six-year-old last year, it went over his head.

I didn’t think he was ready to continue it this year either, so I have been reviewing math concepts with him.  To begin with, we didn’t use anything too exciting. I had some workbooks, so I used those:

I don’t like making my son do a lot of worksheets or workbooks, but in math, it has been necessary in order to hone in on important concepts and help him not forget what he has learned.

All of the concepts he has learned up until now, he’s very good at. He’s especially good at counting coins and telling time! He does well with place value too. He can add and subtract well but he doesn’t have his addition and subtraction facts memorized. I’m not going to worry about that yet.  I’ve noticed that something has “clicked” for him this past year in math (and reading). I think for some children, age seven must be when things come together.

Note: We do math lessons twice a week. Doing more than that has not given me better results, and I think doing more formal lessons would make him hate math. Right now he doesn’t mind it because of the slow approach I’ve taken as well as finding fun ways to learn it. As he gets older, we’ll continue to reassess what his needs will be.

I am planning to continue in Life of Fred again, but I may wait a little while. (*UPDATE: Spring 2014 – We did eventually go back to Life of Fred: Cats. I decided to start at the beginning of the book again, and then we finished the whole thing. So just waiting awhile really helped my son.) I have found an app for our iPad that my son and I both like very much, and he’s getting a lot of good practice with it. I like it because it keeps track of what my son is doing, how he is doing, and it automatically goes to the higher level when he has completed a lower level.

  • The app is Splash Math for Grade 1. It costs $9.99, which is much more than I usually pay for an app, but it has been well worth it.

Splash Math is a lot like doing a workbook, but it’s on the iPad. My son likes it much more than doing a workbook, and that’s okay with me. Unlike other apps, I consider this one our “math lesson,” so I sit with him as he works through the problems. Sometimes he needs help reading the word problems. I have also taught him “greater than” “less than” by using this app.

I also like that I can turn concepts on and off. If they are off, they won’t be included in my son’s practice. For example, I can turn off questions about “data and graphs” until I’m ready to teach it to my son. I have found that by sitting with him while he works through the questions, if he comes to something he doesn’t understand, I can explain it to him or do one problem for him, and from then on, he gets it.

My son likes it because he gets rewarded with an “aquarium,” and he gets something new for the aquarium periodically, such as a fish or crab, as he earns more points. The graphics don’t thrill me, and I don’t care for the anvil that you can drop on a crab’s head, but he likes the app, he’s practicing math, and that’s all that matters.

Sum Swamp game is great for practicing early math skills. The little container of vehicles does not come with it, but that’s how my four-year-old plays with it.

My boys’ favorite way to learn math is by playing Sum Swamp. I can’t recommend this game enough. We play it a lot (not just for math lessons). I bought it so that the seven-year-old could practice addition and subtraction, but it has been a great way to introduce the four-year-old to math, and he loves this game. He asks me to play it with him, and he will even play it by himself! (He uses manipulatives to add and subtract. The seven-year-old doesn’t need them.) It’s even fun for me!

Sum Swamp teaches addition, subtraction, the operation symbols + and -, even/odd numbers, and how to be a gracious winner and not a sore loser! Although we’re still working on those last two!

In my next post, I’ll be addressing how I’ve taught my son about money – both how to count it and financial responsibility. (Click here for that.)

That is it for first grade math. Please tell me what resources you have enjoyed using!

11 thoughts on “1st Grade Homeschool Math

  1. Shelli – I love your gentle approach to math. My almost-8-year old 2nd grader is mathphobic. We’ve cut waaay back on the amount and level of math we were doing, to eliminate the battles (it worked! mostly!), but I’m still trying to work out how much time to spend on it. You said you do 2 lessons per week – how long do those typically last? Thanks!


    1. Hi Melissa – Thanks so much for your comment. I feel sorry for your eight-year-old. I was never very good at math, so it always intimidated me until I started looking at it in a new way for my son. Let’s see…our lessons aren’t too long, but it depends. (And I’ve never timed them, so I can’t say with certainty.) If he’s having fun doing the math app, I may sit with him for about 30 minutes. If I have him do worksheets, we usually labor through 2 of them, and that depends on how long he takes to do them. I think when we did Life of Fred, it may have taken 30-40 minutes to do a chapter. Really, I would just find something she can tolerate like a computer game or math game and then do it for as long as it seems right. When we’re doing the app together, I usually stop him when it feels right – that is when we’ve done enough so that I feel he got a “math workout” but not so much that he’s going to start getting too tired. You may also look into math storybooks or books about mathematicians…take it from a different angle to get her interested in the subject in a non-intimidating way. Or maybe cook with her and then later point out how you used math to measure the ingredients. Good luck and let me know how it goes!


  2. Thanks for the game and app recommendations! Josie (will be 7 next week) is doing Math Mammoth and its going very well. We do math each at but only for 10-15 minutes. I try to add in a card game or something t get extra practice in so I think Sum Swamp will be a hit. I also agree that 7 seems to be a big year for things clicking. I’m already seeing signs if it. I’m glad I observed it because its letting me be much more laid back with my 4 year old. School is fun with him since I’m just playing and gently introducing things to him when he’s interested. I was much harsher with Josie. Knowing that it all falls iceberg when they are ready is a whole new experience!


  3. Thanks for the game and app recommendation! Josie (almost 7) is using math mammoth and its going well. We do math everyday but only for 10-15 minutes. I try to do a game a few days a week to practice so I think sum swamp will be a big hit! I also agree that 7 seems to be a big year for clicking. It’s helped me to relax with my 4 year old. I am not concerned that he’s not doing school at all since I know everything starts to click when they are ready. I’m taking a totally different approach with him then I dd my first go round. And ths way is much more fun!


    1. Thank you so much for your comment. (Sorry you had to comment twice. I have to approve first-time commenters, and I’m told you don’t get a message about this, which is frustrating for me.) I’m glad to hear your experience with Mammoth Math. I have looked at that and considered trying it, but I wonder in the end if it really matters which curriculum I use as long as my son gets it? I’m always debating these things! My four-year-old has definitely benefitted from the experience I’ve gained with my older child too! Good luck with your journey!


  4. Thanks for the Sum Swamp recommendation! My 6 and 4 year old love it! The 4 year old plays with a number line and counters and the 6 year old covers her mouth lol! Math Blasters is a fun FREE app if you haven’t seen that one yet!


  5. I’ve been searching for help to choose curriculum for my 1st grader and was so happy I found you!! This is extremely helpful!!! Thanks for all your time in putting this together! Any chance you could share where to purchase the container of vehicles you use for sum swap? Thanks!!


    1. Jill, I’m so glad if this helps you. We found that container of vehicles at a teacher’s store that has now closed. But the container says it’s made by Learning Resources, and I think they have a website. You could use almost anything as a manipulative though. Even Legos. Good luck!


Part of the reason I keep a blog is because being a stay-at-home mom can be lonely! So please reach out with a message, if you have a question or would like to chat. I usually write back within 24 hours, but please be patient.

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