IEP Math Goals for Operations in the Primary Grades

Goals That Emphasize Basic Addition and Subtraction Skills

Boy counting on teachers fingers in school
Hero Images / Getty Images

An Individual Education Program is a road map created by a special education team that lays out educational goals and expectations for special needs students. A major feature of the plan involves IEP goals, which must be specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-bound. Writing IEP math goals for operations in the primary grades can be challenging, but viewing example can be helpful.

Use these goals as written or revise them to create your own IEP math goals.

Operations and Algebraic Understanding

This is the lowest level of mathematical function but still serves as a foundational basis for understanding operations. These goals should emphasize skills that include an understanding that addition refers to putting numbers together while subtraction involves taking away.

Early primary-grade students should be able to represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings, sounds (such as claps,) acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations. An IEP math goal that focuses on this skill might read:

When presented with 10 random sets of counters within 10, Johnny Student will solve problems modeled by the teacher with statements such as: "Here are three counters. Here are four counters. How many counters altogether?" correctly answering eight out of 10, in three out of four consecutive trials.

At this age, students should be able to decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs using objects or drawings and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1). A goal to achieve that objective could state:

When presented with 10 random sets of counters within 10, Johnny Student will solve problems modeled by the teacher using statement, such as, "Here are 10 counters. I will take these away. How many are left?" correctly answering eight out of 10 (80 percent), in three out of four consecutive trials.

Basic Adding and Subtracting

Also in the early primary grades, for any number from one to nine, students need to be able to find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number and record the answer with a drawing or equation. They also need to add and subtract numbers up to five. These goals emphasize those skills:

When presented with a random number on a card from one to nine, Johnny Student will find the correct number of counters to add to the number to make 10, in eight out of nine attempts (89 percent) for three of four consecutive trials.
When randomly given 10 mixed flash cards with addition problems using numbers zero through five, and subtraction problems using numbers zero through five, Johnny Student will correctly answer nine of 10 in quick succession, in three of four consecutive trials.

Operations and Algebraic Thinking

Effective methods for teaching addition and subtraction for students with learning disabilities are TouchMath and number lines. Number lines are just that—lines of sequential numbers that students can easily count while doing math problems. TouchMath is a multisensory commercial math program for first- through third-graders that allows students to touch dots or other objects placed strategically on numbers in order to count them. You can create your own touch-math-type worksheets by using free math worksheet generator sites.

IEP math goals that incorporate either numbers lines or touch-math-type strategies might include:

When given 10 addition problems with touch points, with addends to nine, Johnny Student will write the correct answer to eight out of 10 problems (80 percent) in three of four consecutive trials.
When given 10 subtraction problems with touch points, with minuends (the top number in a subtraction problem) to 18 and subtrahends (the bottom number in subtraction problems) to nine, Johnny Student will write the correct answer to eight out of 10 problems (80 percent) for three of four consecutive trials.
When given a number line to 20 and 10 addition problems with addends to nine, Johnny Student will write the correct answer to eight out of 10 problems (80 percent) in three of four consecutive trials.

Adding and Subtracting to 20

Young students must also be able to add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. They should be able to use strategies such as making 10 (for example, 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a 10 (13 - 4 = 13 - 3 - 1 = 10 - 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (knowing that 8 + 4 = 12 and 12 - 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).

This skill provides a good place to teach place value, by helping students find and see the "10" in numbers between 11 and 20. A math goal covering this skill might prescribe:

When given a random number of counters between 11 and 19 for 10 times (probes), Johnny Student will regroup the number into a 10 and ones, placing them on a work mat with two squares, one labeled "10" and the other "ones" correctly in eight out of 10 probes (80 percent) for three of four consecutive trials.