A Month-to-Month Guide: First-Grade Math


Planning math instruction demands that teachers have an overall sense of the curriculum for the entire year, a focus for each month, and a specific plan for each day. This guide makes it easy to plan all three.

This book is part of the Month-to-Month Guide, Complete Series.

Vicki Bachman
320 Pages

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Review by David Chia, Assistant Principal at Weller Road Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland. From the Winter 2004–2005 issue of Intersection, a newsletter of the ExxonMobil Corporation and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Reprinted with permission from Intersection, © 2004, by ExxonMobil Corporation.

If you are an elementary school teacher, you are probably a generalist who teaches many subjects. In recent years, a plethora of professional resource texts have been published for elementary educators who teach literacy. You may have used a popular month-by-month phonics resource for the primary grade teacher. So if you've wondered, “Why isn’t there a similar resource for the primary grade math teacher?”, now there is! In First-Grade Math: A Month-to-Month Guide, by Vicki Bachman, you will find a solid resource for both the novice and veteran first grade math teacher.

First-Grade Math begins with a chapter that helps the teacher reflect on various aspects of a first grade math classroom. Ms. Bachman suggests thinking about the use of space, math manipulative selection, instructional planning, organizing student work and assessment. The remaining chapters are organized by month. For each month, there are instructional ideas related to key concepts of math development. These concepts include the following: sorting and counting, patterns and number sense, number and operation, geometry, addition and subtraction, probability, measurement of length, height, distance, and time, measurement of area, volume, and weight, and exploring larger numbers.

The suggested plans and activities in each chapter can be incorporated into a sixty-minute math class that includes a warm-up, a focus lesson, guided or independent student practice, and a summary. Each chapter has whole group lessons with a materials list and procedures. Diagrams and examples of student work are used as needed. There are hands-on activities to develop or reinforce the chapter’s key concept. These activities serve well for centers or guided/independent student practice. Each chapter also describes routines that a good math teacher establishes in a first grade classroom. Routines include calendar activities, an estimation jar, and a math notebook. Graphing and time are also taught regularly. One of the highlights in First-Grade Math is the use of literature. Each chapter includes the use of several grade appropriate texts—some for the teacher to read aloud and others that emerging readers can read independently. A compilation of the literature mentioned in each chapter is listed. There is also a very detailed index as well as almost two dozen black-line masters for teacher use.

All in all, Vicki Bachman’s First-Grade Math: A Month-to-Month Guide is an excellent resource for the novice teacher. If you are a math specialist, a mentor teacher, or an administrator, this is an excellent resource for a teacher with whom you are working. If you are a veteran teacher who would like to sharpen your skills as a first grade math teacher, this would be a very good reference. The format of this book is simple, practical and easy to use. First-Grade Math can supplement your math curriculum with lesson ideas and instructional strategies—one month at a time.

Review by Judith Ball, retired from School District U-46 in Elgin, Illinois. From the February 2005 issue of Teaching Children Mathematics, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Reprinted with permission from NCTM, © 2005.

The author of this practical guidebook, a classroom teacher, shares the results of her year-long mathematics instruction planning with colleagues. The book can help teachers give children a foundation for reasoning, problem solving, and developing confidence in their ability to “do math” that makes sense to them. Number ideas are addressed each month, along with the following content strands:

  • September: sorting/counting
  • October: patterns/number sense
  • November: number/operation
  • December: geometry
  • January: addition/subtraction
  • February: probability
  • March: measurement: length/height/distance/time
  • April: measurement: area/volume/weight
  • May/June: exploring larger numbers

Chapters focus on the learning environment, classroom routines incorporating mathematics concepts, literature-based activities, and whole-class and “menu” activities. December's chapter on geometry also includes a section on questioning.

The chapter on learning environment puts the month’s mathematics topic into the context of the time of year, general curriculum, and mathematics "big picture.” A learning environment suggestion in December recommends shifting children's attention to a new topic, such as geometry, to ease seasonal distractions.

Books that are old standards, such as A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman, and newer publications inspire the section on literature-based activities. The cover illustration of First-Grade Math includes a child’s depiction of the animals in Moruzuma’s One Gorilla as a way to record the story and figure the total number of animals. One concern is that the cover picture omits enough of the child’s original picture to make the mathematics incorrect. Menu activities in the book are basically “center” activities that can be done in whole-group work or individually. Specific whole-group activities are also included.

Monthly topics are a focus of this book; holidays are not. During December, family traditions replace typical seasonal fare. February’s chapter includes a few examples of valentines and Abe Lincoln. Refreshingly, there is no need to worry about the “political correctness” of the book.

The book includes blackline masters, references for teachers’ further study and discussion, and a comprehensive list of mathematics-related children’s literature. Suggested classroom materials are of the multiple-use type, such as interlocking cubes, providing efficiency in lesson preparation.

Not only does this book give teachers a good resource for activities, but the author's description of collegial planning also serves as a good model for professional growth.

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Topics of study include addition and subtraction, geometry, sorting and counting, patterns and symmetry, measurement, and more.

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