Preschool Math Checklist: What Kids Should Know before Kindergarten

[fa icon="calendar"] August 25, 2016 at 4:41 PM / by Admin


Who doesn't love a good checklist? Whether you're a parent, a teacher, a superintendent (or even an educational technology developer!), it sure is hard to cram everything we want to get done into every day. Good time management certainly helps, though, and if you ask us, the humble checklist is the best tool we've got.

So you know what? We made one! This is a preschool math checklist which is a list of math skills kids should know before beginning Kindergarten. Parents, of course, can benefit from this, but it's also a "wish list" for Kindergarten teachers. The things you hope kids know when they first come through your classroom doors for the first time.

So without further's checklist time!


Checklist Item 1: Numbers & Counting

Preschoolers should be comfortable with numbers 1 through 20. One of the best ways to ensure children understand the underlying concepts is to use physical items to represent numbers.

If you use items — let’s say...pistachios (who doesn't love pistachios?) — kids can see there’s a difference between one pistachio and two pistachios. They can see there’s a difference between two pistachios and eight pistachios. Using physical manipulatives will help kids go beyond simply memorizing the number sequence and instead will help them link numbers with magnitudes. This is essential for progression through not just Kindergarten but all the grades to come after that as well.


Checklist Item 2: Shapes

A preschooler should definitely be able to identify the basic shapes - squares, circles, triangles, and rectangles. This is a critical one because shapes make up the foundation of spatial reasoning and geometry. Spatial reasoning and geometry in turn make up a huge branch of mathematics kids will be exposed to throughout their entire education.

Once again, it helps if a child has physical manipulatives to play with in order to reinforce understanding. Showing kids that the entire world is made up of different shapes is another way. Why not point out that a car’s wheels are round or that their favourite poster is a rectangle? There are limitless ways of showing children the basic shapes.

Three-dimensional objects like cubes and spheres are a bit advanced for this age, so leave those for the Grade 1 checklist. Same with irregular shapes like trapezoids and rhombuses (these ones even get us a little confused at times!) There will be plenty of time for those, and a good foundation in the basics means kids will have no trouble later on.


Checklist Item 3: Colors

OK, so colors (or "colours" for those of us North of the border!) sounds like more of an art skill than a math one. But understanding colors is the basis for understanding patterns and classification, and a whole bunch of other more advanced math. Color is everywhere. Get a kid thinking about color, and you’ll get a kid thinking about the entire world and everything in it.

By the start of Kindergarten, kids should know the basic colors — black, white, red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and purple. In addition to knowing the abstract essence of a color (what it looks like as a splotch of paint, for example), they should also know the colors associated with various common objects. This is easy and fun — fire hydrants are red, lemons are yellow, grass is green, the sky is blue, and so forth. And the best game ever for this? I Spy! I never get tired of that one.

As an added bonus, understanding color means your kid will be an awesome fingerpainter, which bodes well for your fridge decorating.


Checklist Item 4: Patterns & Classification

This builds on the type of thinking a child uses when learning the different colors. It will also become crucial later on when studying algebra and related math, so it’s a great idea to keep this on the preschool checklist.

There are tons of patterning resources online, but you can also use real objects to create patterns too. There’s really no limit to the different ways you can illustrate a pattern to a child. Once they get good at spotting patterns, their minds will be more capable of mathematical abstraction, or the ability to comprehend symbolic representations of math, rather than just real-world ones.

This will also help you cover relational positions. Terms like “above,” “below,” “under,” and so on, will be a critical way of classifying multiple objects. Once kids understand this kind of concept, they’ll be able to use classification in contexts like the following: “The green bird is on top of the red house.”


Checklist Item 5: Measuring & Comparing

The final item! This one's focused on relative sizes. These skills will pave the way for an understanding of quantity, the ability to estimate, and more skill at geometry and those all-important STEAM skills (science, technology, engineering, art & design, and math...that's right, they're adding an 'A' to this now! We love it. We'll have to make that another blog post.)

You can practice this skill with your child by finding different objects and talking about which ones are “bigger,” “smaller,” “taller,” “shorter,” and so on. For example, you could show a child the difference between an empty container and a full one. Having a concrete representation of these concepts will really help drive the idea home. All of these skills are as elementary as it gets, and working on them with kids can be done in any number of fun and entertaining ways. And in fact, following this checklist will give children all the foundation they need to excel in Kindergarten and in upper grades.

We're more well-known for our Kindergarten and Grade 1 product, but do you know where we started? Preschool! As developers of math products, we wanted to start right where the kids do, and develop that same early foundation. This very checklist was the very foundation for that whole game.


RELATED5 Kindergarten Math Activities You Need to Try in Your Classroom


What are some ways we can give kids the math foundation they need? Feel free to let us know down below!


Zorbit's Math Adventure is a fun and engaging online math game, currently available for kindergarten and grade 1 teachers and students. This adaptive, game-based learning program will improve your student's experiences with math, increase their level of understanding and performance, and will allow you to view your entire class's game performance from a high-level overview.


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Topics: Preschool, Preschool Math