First Grade Love

All Things First Grade Math!

Unit 01- Foundations of Numbers up to 20

This unit focuses on the understanding of whole numbers up to 20, comparing numbers using place value (review using words from Kinder), and ordering these numbers using an open number line (this is new!).


This is their formal introduction to our place value system by thinking in terms of “tens” and ones” up to 20. In kindergarten they talked about groups of ten and more but did not use the terms tens and ones.


Students will also be introduced to using place value and open number lines to place number to 20 in order.


In this Smore I just wanted to highlight a couple of things about this unit!

Linking Cubes, Base Ten Blocks, Place Value Disks, OH MY!

When starting to think about what manipulative to use for this unit, we need to think about what is developmentally appropriate and also take into account the specificity of the TEK.


1.2B states that students will use concrete and pictorial models to compose and decompose numbers up to 120(which in this unit we are ONLY going to 20) in more than one way as so many hundreds, so many tens, and so many ones. In the specificity it says to use concrete proportional models (linking cubes, base ten, and bundles of sticks).


Knowing all of this research says that developmentally 1st graders are not ready for base ten blocks so linking cubes are the best way to do place value. Van de Walle recommends groupable manipulatives prior to using traditional base-10 blocks, because they can physically be joined together and broken apart. Traditional base-10 blocks are actually a little more abstract because, for example, you can’t break the tens rod apart into ones–you have to trade it for ones.


That being said we have to also get kids ready for 2nd grade and the expectation that they will have to go from only doing numbers to 120 to 1,200. So if we never expose them to base ten is that the best?


So here is what I recommend, for this first place value unit only use linking cubes, bundles of sticks, and beans and ten frames to compose and decompose numbers to 20. This will help to develop the construction of the group of ten and allows for them to put that group of 10 together and take it apart. In the next place value unit we will start with linking cubes and begin to move them toward base ten blocks.

Double Ten Frames- Vertical or Horizontal?

In Kinder, students used double ten frames in both directions. I would encourage 1st grade to use the double ten frames vertically. This will help you reinforce the concept of tens and ones. Have them fill the ten frame on the left completely before filling the one on the right. This is a simple but really effective way to help students make connections.
Big picture

Mingle-Pair-Share: FSGPT Idea

This is great way to get kids up and moving while talking about their learning!

•Students mix around the room silently as music plays in the background.

•When the music stops, each student finds a partner closest to them (no running across the room to find your best friend!) and puts their hand together with their partner’s in a high five.

•When all students have found a partner, teacher poses a question and allows for “think time” For example “In the number 15 what is the value of the digit in the ones/tens place?” or "Name three numbers that are greater than ___."

•One partner shares and the other listens.

•Partners switch roles.

•After both partners have had a chance to speak (teacher will have to monitor this, based on the depth of the question), music starts again, students mingle, when music stops they find a new partner, teacher poses new question, etc.

•Repeat for each question.


There are seed questions in the IFD.

Sticky Note Storm-Critical Writing and FSGPT

Great idea to combine critical writing and FSGPT! Make sure you have a good supply of sticky notes, parents are usually very willing to donate these if you ask! Works best if students are seated in small groups.


  • Teacher poses a question, sets a time limit and gives students a moment to think before writing. For example, “In one minute, how many ways can you compose/decompose 10?”

  • Each student writes down as many answers as they can think of—one idea per sticky note—and sticks it to the center of the table.

  • The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible and cover the table with sticky notes! At the end of each round, students review one another’s ideas and remove the ideas that repeat.

90 Minute Math Block

15-20 minutes- Warm-ups (don't forget that there are Ready Made Warm-ups in the folder)

15-25 minutes- Whole Group Mini-Lesson

45-60 minutes- Small Group and Stations

  • 2 rounds each 20 minutes
  • Every student seen at least twice a week at teacher table