Advise Please about teaching math?

Question:I have a nine year old who flips out when it comes to subtraction. We're doing very basic numbers under 20 right now and she's crying about how hard it is. This is second grade material and she's in third grade. I don't know why she's so upset about it. How can I make this easier? We've tried counting up and maniputlatives (little blocks) to make it easier but when I take them away and try to get her to count backwards or count up she freaks. She has addition down pretty well but can't put together that if 6+6=12 then 12-6=6 she just doesn't get that concept yet.

Have you tried algebraic methods or simply leaving an adden blank to help her bridge the gap between addition and subtraction? If she understands that 6+6=12 then try showing her 6+_=12 and see if she can figgure that out. Tell her subtraction is just like finding the missing answer to an addition problem. These are called families. 6, 6, and 12 are in a family and so if one is missing in an addition or subtraction problem, you need to simply look for the missing member of the family. Keep letting her use the blocks. Cuissenaire rods are actually wonderful tools for teaching math. If you do not have those, I would recommend them. If you simply can't get them, line up 12 equally-sized blocks and then line up 6 blocks underneath. Show her visually how 6 are missing. The numbers 6,6, and 12 are a family. Then line up 9 blocks under the 12 and show her how 9, 3, and 12 are part of a family. Let her continue with the blocks as long as she needs. The neat thing about Cuisenaire rods (cheapest place I know to purchase them is ) is that each numerical amount is represented by a different colored rod. There are 10 different rod sizes. The child will begin to know that an orange rod, for example, represents 10. Children who identify numerical amounts by colored rods tend to see the answer more clearly in their minds. I have a niece who is in her sophomore year at a Lutheran University in Texas and she still imagines numbers by their colors. By the way, she is excellent at math. ;) I also want to assure you that working with manipulatives in not merely something for kids under eight years of age. Cuisenaire rods can be used to explain algebraic equations just as well as to they can be used to show equalities or simple addition. They are a very good investment, but more than that, manipulatives can be used at the start of every new concept reguardless of the age and maturity of the child. The more senses you incoporate into the learning process, the better and quicker and easier the child will learn. Don't feel that you are doing her a disservice by letting her use manipulatives in math.
Make a game of it. Get her building blocks or something to that effect that she can use her hands on. Give her a problem...14-3=...write it on a white board or a big piece of paper. She will need to start with 14 of what ever it is you so choose, then she needs to take away 3...then write her answer. Also teach her how to self check her work. 14-3=11..
The way to check subtraction would be take the answer and add it to the bottom number, so then she would know that she has the right number.
It really helps it stick sometimes when it is put into the form of a game, and they are not expected to sit and do it but can get thier whole body involved!
I had a dd who struggled (still does in some ways) with math. It was horrible. We tried a number of different curriculums and then we decided to give Math U See a try.

It was fantastic!! She finished 2 levels in a year and is just jumping ahead so quickly and the best part is SHE UNDERSTANDS IT. She can now do addition and subtraction faster then her older brother and sister.

I highly recommend it.
Each child is different, I tutored math years ago, and found that once they understand the concepts they are fine.
Finding a way to bring it home was the real trick.
I have learned to use many games, and fun items for practice purposes.

There are many games on line, in the form of computer software that you can look into.
Jump start, and DK are great, so is Carmen San Diego math,
Clue Finders and Math Blasters.

I also found that the M&M books, Twizzler pull and peel math, Hersey's Chocolate, and these type of books were great as well as fun books to learn the basic concepts.

If you are looking for a good Math curriculum, try Saxon Math 3; even though she is on a second grade level it will work fine, and it is pretty painless.
I have to say that after using Saxon 3, we were sold, and have used the Saxon books ever since.

Good Luck.
Let her stay with the manipulatives. If she's getting too stressed out without them, then taking them a way is a sure way to have her view all math negatively. Once the concept properly clicks, she won't need them anymore. It's got nothing to do with grade or age--since you're homeschooling, you have the time to let her get the concept when she's really ready and can let her develop the concept in the way she learns best.

As for associating the addition with the subtraction, playing games with manipulatives can be helpful. Say you have 12 chocolate chips. Give yourself 6 and her 6. "How many do we have all together?" "12." "Let's write that out: 6+6=12." Then ask her, "How many will there be left if you eat all your chocolate chips?" She'll be able to SEE that 6 are left. So, you then write, 12-6=6. Do NOT try to show her how they are related at this point. It's just another rule to memorize and that screws up kids.

Do more examples with her, keeping 12 chocolate chips, if you want, in different arrangements: you have 5 and she has 7, so 5+7=12. How many are left if you eat your 5?

Do lots and lots on various days. Alternate between super easy questions (you each have one choc. chip, or you have 2 and she has 1) and hard questions. What this hands-on learning does is provide a visual/conceptual basis for understanding. The reason she is freaking out or not getting it is because she's seeing them as just things to memorize, not math as a way to work with quantities. Some kids make the memorization-concept transfer just fine; others DESPERATELY need to have the hands-on work because the sense of numbers just isn't quite there yet.
Try it with M&M's! Seriously. Use the colors and treat them like you did other manipulatives but reward her with the candy when she gets it right!

Kindergarten to 8th Grade Interactive Sites
For basic drill work:
A company called Audio Memory has CDs available with songs to help memorize facts, Addition Songs, Subtraction Songs, Multiplication Songs, Division Songs, and Grammar Songs, they are wonderful!

Also look for Games. My kids like this set of learning games that have problems on cards and numbers on the spaces. The kid draws a card, solves the problems and moves to the space that shows the answer. If they move to the wrong square, they miss that turn, but if your daughter is already frustrated you might just change the rule that if she moves to wrong square she uses counters to figure out the right answer and then moves there.

Also, try backing up a bit. Start with some real easy facts (maybe numbers under 5) and practice those until she knows them, then add one more fact, and one more, until she knows them all.

For understanding of the concept:

Show her the relationship between addition and subtraction by teaching her "fact families". For example here is a fact family 4+1=5, 1+4=5, 5-1=4, 5-4=1.

In addition to the drill ideas I stated above, let her keep using manipulatives during her regular math work. You can drill the facts separately so she learns them, but meanwhile let her not get further behind by having her use blocks, buttons, or beans to "act out" the subtraction. She will develop more understanding of the concept with the manipulatives, and will memorize with the drill, the best of both worlds.

Another thing, don't let her see that you are worried or upset by her difficulty, it will add to her anxiety and make it harder for her to learn. Be cheerful and praise every right answer, and deal with wrong answers with encouragement "Oh, that's close! You are getting better all the time, and just made a mistake. Lets use the buttons to find the answer!"

Audio Memory is available from
so are many learning games.

This article contents is post by this website user, doesn't promise its accuracy.

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