Ready for School: First grade math & science milestones

3 ways to tell if your child is ready for first-grade math and science.

Learning Stages

By Clement Chau, Ph.D.

LeapFrog Learning Expert

As the children and media expert on the Learning Team, Clement primarily works on toys and digital products related to social studies, creativity, life skills and early childhood development. Before joining LeapFrog, he was an early education consultant, a media literacy researcher at the MIT Comparative Media Studies department, a researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston, and a researcher and lecturer at the Tufts University Developmental Technologies Research Group. Clement received his PhD from Tufts University's Eliot Pearson Department of Child Development and completed his dissertation on evaluating children's mobile apps.

First grade is a time of tremendous physical, mental, emotional and social growth. Kids turn from practicing the things they know to tackling a whole set of new skills. While kids can get frustrated, plenty of praise and reassurance helps them rise to new challenges.

To understand whether your child is ready for the challenges of first-grade math and science, assess how your child compares to the following statements in 3 key areas.

Addition & subtraction

  • I can solve basic addition and subtraction problems. I understand math best with pictures and examples. If I have ten candies and you take away two, then I know I have eight. But if you add the two candies back in I have ten again.  

Recognize, explore & observe

  • I can take my experience and what I know about one thing and apply it to another. I learn rules this way. For example, if you add one number to another, it always makes more, every single time. And if you take something away, the total is always less, always.
  • I know that objects have many properties that work together, like balloons are both light and large, that is why they float, and marbles are small, but they are also heavy, so they drop. This new understanding is going to help in my emerging ability to do math.
  • I am just now beginning to understand how I come up with answers to questions. I might observe my thought process and even tell you about it. I can tell you what I know and how I know it. However, because of this knowledge, I can get very frustrated with myself for not figuring things out when I think I should be able to.

Compare & classify

  • I compare things such as numbers, shapes and animals. For example, I can spot the differences between two similar images.
  • I can group things into categories, like plants, animals and people. All these things are similar in some ways and different in others. If the category is living things, then all the items fit in the category. But if the category is things that walk, then only animals and people are in the group.