Even with Pre-K becoming the norm, kindergarten is often thought of as the first classroom a child experiences. It is in this classroom the child begins to understand the structure that will shape his or her life for the next 12-20 years. Socialization skills, adjustment to group learning and perhaps more importantly, cognitive skills are the goals of kindergarten today. Kindergarten teachers are responsible for giving their kids what they need to grow emotionally and intellectually. They also need to help them grow physically by providing time for rest and exercise. The kindergarten curriculum includes language arts, math, science, social studies and the Arts. Each of these subjects must be addressed within a context of the others. A basic math curriculum in a US school would concentrate on building the foundation skills that will take the student all the way through college.
The focal points of the National Math Curriculum are Numbers and Operations, Geometry and Measurement. School boards within the various districts develop their own matrices to teach these foundation skills, however, most agree on the final goal. They want each child to be able to make connections, reason, be able to communicate the results of their problem solving abilities and be able to design and represent analyses of their solutions. While that may sound complicated for a kindergartener, it is really no more than being able to use a set of separated objects for adding and subtracting or recognizing what comes next in a line of numbers or colors.
Numbers and operations begin with the child learning to use numbers to represent quantities or designate position: cardinal and ordinal numbering. Students are taught to understand the relationship between numbers and quantities using sets of objects, positioning and grouping. Patterning, using properties to recognize groups and comparing the sets are elements that combine to create a working sense of numbers for the students. Counting, counting by 10's and counting backwards to 100 are mastered in kindergarten.
Students are taught to identify and describe basic geometric figures such as squares, triangles, circles, rectangles, hexagons, cubes, spheres, cones and can compare them to objects in their environment. They learn how to combine objects to build larger, more complex figures and learn to use shape and size comparisons to determine relationships such as smaller than or same shape as. These comparisons also help in understanding capacity and differences in height, weight and commonalties.
In learning measurements, students learn to solve problems by comparisons and by combining objects to achieve different lengths or heights. They learn the concept of measuring time and units of measurement of time: seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc. Students are taught the concepts of lunchtime, dinnertime and bedtime. Instruments used for measuring length, capacity and distance are also introduced and used in practical settings. Kindergarteners learn pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters and each of their relationships to the dollar bill.
When all these elements are combined a child has the sturdy foundation on which to build a mathematical future. By the end of the school year kindergarteners are able to sort and classify objects, demonstrate an understanding of time, do some simple addition and subtraction, understand shapes and their relationship to their environment and can create and follow simple directional leads such as: run to the corner, turn left, go 5 more steps. Children have also learned estimation strategies, descriptive uses of measurements for comparisons and have begun using mathematical reasoning in order to strategize problem solving. They can also use their skills to explain how they solved a problem and can justify their reasoning. Using ordinal and cardinal numbers, geometry and measurement, the student now has opened the door to data analysis, algebra and graphing.