I will never forget this one day when Kevin was a preschooler. We had an IEP meeting, and one of his proposed goals was to be able to visualize and identify what 2 of something looks like, or what 3 of something looks like.
That same day, my younger son came up to me with two baby blankets, one in each hand, and said, “Look, mommy! TWO blankies!” Ouch. He’s two and a half years younger and he already had the skills that his brother lacked; a beginning math skill.
Math IEP goals are one of my nemeses as an advocate. Because here’s the thing. Very few math skills are stand-alone skills.
And, when parents ask me for assistance, they’ll ask for things like a 6th grade math IEP goal, even though their child is not performing at the level of 6th grade math content.
What one kindergarten child can do as far as a kindergarten math IEP goals varies from child to child.
Math IEP Goals
To perform even the most basic skill, a student needs other foundation skills.
I find that when you dig deep underneath the skill deficits behind the math deficits, you often find a whole host of other issues.
We often forget that math skills often begin with memorization. Parents and teachers sing songs about counting to ten. So is a child actually counting to ten? Or are they just singing a memorized song? A child can tell you 2+2=4. But is that a memorized phrase? Can that child actually visualize what two of something looks like?
Being able to memorize your home address and knowing where you live are two different skills. See my point?
If a child has unaddressed reading issues, they cannot do word problems. Math learning cannot occur without either working memory or accommodations for lack of working memory. And there are many other subsets that our kids lack.
The child also has to be able to assign symbols to an idea. Three, III, and 3 all mean the same thing. As an exercise, let’s say we put 3 donut holes in front of a child. Ask them to count them. They get to 3. But could they assign the number 3 in a matching exercise?
Furthermore, can look at a plate with 5 donut holes and tell you which plate has more donut holes?
Foundations of Math Skills
- Understanding size, measurements
- Number sense
- Ability to count verbally (first forward, then backward)
- Recognizing numerals
- Spatial awareness, visualizing what “3” of something looks like.
- More than, less than
- Understanding one-to-one correspondence (i.e., matching sets, or knowing which group has four and which has five)
- working memory
What happens is that some kids are great at either memorizing or masking, until they can’t. So it is assumed that they have sort of stalled out on math skills when the fact is that they likely always lacked the basics but it wasn’t evident.
Too many people who write math goals approach it from the point of view of a mathemetician. Look at the goal above for 1st grade, the part where it says “calculate and compare the values of combinations and coins.”
It makes me cringe. We all know that a nickel is bigger than a dime but worth less. To know and memorize this also requires flexible thinking, as in “bigger is not always more.”
I get that this is a standards-based list, but I just cannot stress enough how important it is to address what lies underneath successful math skills.
Math Skills IEP Goals
Ok, so my point is…or I am pleading with you, if you have found this blog post, to make sure that the underlying skills have been evaluated and addressed. I know that many parents and educators come to lists of IEP math goals, choose what fits, and that’s it.
If the foundation skill isn’t there, the math skill will never be achieved. And this can be harmful to a child’s mental health, to be constantly given goals you cannot achieve nor be able to define why you cannot do them.
Please promise me that you won’t come here, grab your needed goal ideas to complete the IEP and just bounce, ok?
Math Goals for an IEP
Here you go, the printable list of Math IEP Goals.
I have a love/hate relationship with this list. I liked that it does list the skills incremental skill sets by age/grade.
But, it is just that–a list. It does not go into any of the pre-skills that are necessary. “Do mental arithmetic” is a useless command if you lack working memory or the ability to visualize quantity.
I hope this helps. In some cases, the child will need a good neuropsychological evaluation to determine what the root of the issues are.
Don’t miss my other lists of IEP goal ideas in the IEP goal bank.