Grade two, or second grade?

Our son’s class at Northwest School is learning single-digit subtraction (one number between 1-10 minus another number between 1-10 equals). Last night’s homework involved subtracting 1 from numbers 2 to 10. (Yup, 5-1=?; 10-1=?)

It’s the SECOND GRADE. It’s the second half of September.

From the kindergarten standard from Vermont:

2. Solve addition and subtraction word problems, and add and subtract within 10, e.g., by using objects or drawings to represent the problem.


Students can “fluently add and subtract” numbers up to five.

And the assigned class homework in the second grade is repeating that basic information. You want to know why our students don’t measure up internationally, this is it in a nutshell.

Some, possibly most, of the class did learn this by the end of the first grade. Those kids are not spending useful classroom or homework time working on  it. The rest, who didn’t learn what they are supposed to know from Grade 1 (or kindergarten), are already on pace to be a  full year behind (after two years, plus kindergarten). Result: The whole class muddles along toward mediocrity.

Two questions: Are the students who need extra help getting it in a way that is useful? How much are the students who are at grade level getting held back?

The following is from the Ontario curriculum standards for Grade One. How many American kids meet these standards?

Grade 1: Patterning and Algebra

Overall Expectations

By the end of Grade 1, students will:

• identify, describe, extend, and create repeating patterns;

• demonstrate an understanding of the concept of equality, using concrete materials and addition and subtraction to 10.

Specific Expectations

Patterns and Relationships

By the end of Grade 1, students will:

– identify, describe, and extend, through investigation, geometric repeating patterns involving one attribute (e.g., colour, size, shape, thickness, orientation);

– identify and extend, through investigation, numeric repeating patterns (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, …);

– describe numeric repeating patterns in a hundreds chart;

– identify a rule for a repeating pattern (e.g., “We’re lining up boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl.”);

– create a repeating pattern involving one attribute (e.g., colour, size, shape, sound)

Sample problem:

Use beads to make a string that shows a repeating pattern involving one attribute.);
– represent a given repeating pattern in a variety of ways (e.g., pictures, actions, colours, sounds, numbers, letters)

Sample problem:

Make an ABA,ABA,ABA pattern using actions like clapping or tapping.).

Expressions and Equality

By the end of Grade 1, students will:

– create a set in which the number of objects is greater than, less than, or equal

to the number of objects in a given set;

– demonstrate examples of equality, through investigation, using a “balance” model

Sample problem:

Demonstrate, using a pan balance, that a train of 7 attached cubes on one side balances a train of 3 cubes and a train of 4 cubes on the other side.);

– determine, through investigation using a “balance” model and whole numbers to 10, the number of identical objects that must be added or subtracted to establish equality

Sample problem:

On a pan balance, 5 cubes are placed on the left side and 8 cubes are placed on the right side.

How many cubes should you take off the right side so that both sides balance

Overall Expectations

By the end of Grade 1, students will:

• collect and organize categorical primary data and display the data using concrete graphs and pictographs, without regard to the order of labels on the horizontal axis;

• read and describe primary data presented in concrete graphs and pictographs;

• describe the likelihood that everyday events will happen.


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