In first grade math classes, counting should be connected to an object, beginning with the children using their fingers and toes. Different objects may be: chestnuts, gems, etc. Try to avoid counting with food (beans, lentils, etc). Unless you are eating it, food is not something to play with in a world where there is hunger. The act of “regrouping numbers” involves the children putting both of their hands on their desks and we, the teacher, asking: How many different ways are there to show four fingers if you can use both hands? (One way would be one finger on one hand and three fingers on the other.) The teacher can also hold up four fingers, and the child needs to immediately recognize that there are four fingers. This demands a lot of practice as the children learn to move away from counting. This can also be done using different objects on a table under a cloth, etc. For example, imagine using a certain number of chestnuts. We show them very briefly and then cover them up. We then ask the children how many chestnuts they saw. The idea is that we want them to see the amount immediately instead of counting every single nut
First grade also brings the first visual encounter with the five-structure. It is the five fingers on our hands; two hands make ten. It is easy for most children to work with units of five. This becomes quite useful later when we start to develop strategies. It is perhaps the first strategy we will use. We should also ask the students to regroup a number of gems, for example, with 12 gems, there are many possibilities.