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Teaching a child maths, could i be doing it wrong?

(21 Posts)
Allonsy Tue 20-Nov-12 09:52:43

Ds is 6 and in primary 2, he loves numbers and its always reciting 1-100 over and over, In class they are doing adding up from numbers 0-20, sums are set out in line fashion like this > 12 + 5 = ds struggles with this as he dosnt have enough fingers, he also cant hold a number in his head say 8 +5 hold 8 in his head then add 5 fingers he has to count 8 fingers out first, still with me....

So i showed his how i used to set out sums at school i.e >
+ 15

making it easie to work out and he got it right away, he got me to write pages and pages of these sums and got them all right, obviously not ones where he would have to carry a number etc but afterwards i was worried i may be making things harder for him or confusing things, do schools still teach this method later on?

Allonsy Tue 20-Nov-12 09:53:15

my wee sum jumped out of order there but you get the idea

HauntedLittleLunatic Tue 20-Nov-12 09:55:19

That method would be taught from about yr5 IIRC.

At you sons stage they would be encouraging the use of a number line and 'chunking' (breaking 23+12 down into 20+10 and 3+2) as this helps with mental arithmetic.

Allonsy Tue 20-Nov-12 10:05:49

Ah ok i know he was using a number line at school but was struggling especially with taking away numbers. I should probably not do any more of these with him them and let him delveop his mental arithmatic, he made me promise to make more sums for him after school as well oops

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Tue 20-Nov-12 10:11:34

Taking away numbers is just going from right to left on the number line, though? Or you can take away by adding. Eg 20 - 6, start at 6 on the number line and count on to 20, maybe break it down into a few jumps, one of 4 up to 10, then one jump of 10, 4 + 10 = 14.

learnandsay Tue 20-Nov-12 10:12:19

Number line, number square, abacus (Melissa & Doug), blocks of Lego, raisins, Smarties, money & change, (some notation +,-,=,x,etc); there are lots of ways to play with numbers. I believe a little of everything does you good, and it all helps to add to the child's familiarity.

Allonsy Tue 20-Nov-12 10:20:53

Tbh i think the number line hes been taken away now his last worksheet i seen didnt have one on it although it used to im not 100% though. He tries to do his adding and taking away with his fingers but quickly runs out and gets confused. I have tried using objects to demonstrate but he misses the point, eg, i said to him yesterday whats 4 - 3, he just guessed numbers so i said heres 4 blocks if i give you 3 how many do i have left hes said 3 then 4 i had to keep saying no what do I have infront of me now he got 1 so i said thats right so what is 4 -3? no idea. He then wanted to do a sum of 2 - 4 i told him thats not possible showed him with the blocks and he didnt get it just kept saying but theres more in the toy box etc confused

He dosnt understand money at all yet he thinks 2 pennies is more than £1, we have had many frustrating discussions on that one

HauntedLittleLunatic Tue 20-Nov-12 10:23:43

That's very true. I do a LOT of number work with my 6yo, but rarely involves formal sums (with exception of practicing number bonds and times tables).

We talk about adding up money, we play junior monopoly. Any game with 2 dice would work well. We do basic adding of time (I.e. wait 5 mins. It's 1:40 now what will the clock say?, no crossing hours tho yet altho she is not far off that). She talks about how much older she is than x. There are actually loads of opportunities to talk about and use numbers without sitting down to do sums.

HauntedLittleLunatic Tue 20-Nov-12 10:27:26


It sounds to me that you actually need to take a step back and teach him what numbers actually ARE. I know that sounds strange but a lot of early work in the classroom is about getting them to understand what numbers represent before they can manipulate them.

On of the reasons of teaching column addition (like in your op) later is that children could do the mechanics of the sums without understanding what they were actually doing to the original numbers.

Melmamma Tue 20-Nov-12 10:27:32

One of the things that might help is to encourage him to "count on" from 12. If the question is 12+5, don't start at 1 (and run out of fingers at 10), but start at 12 and then count on (using five fingers if it helps him) ... 13,14,15,16,17 to get to the answer.

A number line as a visual cue might help with that as well - start at 12 and then "5 hops to the right" to add 5 more.

talkingnonsense Tue 20-Nov-12 10:34:28

You definitely need to do more counting with actual things- you have 4 smarties, one more is? If I have two you have? And so on- very important to know what 4-2 means ( though there are more in the toy box is genius! And clearly 2 pennies are more coins than £1!)

Allonsy Tue 20-Nov-12 10:37:54

Really appreciate the replies, his teacher did say at parents night that although he can add 2 + 2 = 4 for example he didnt understand why it equalled 4 and that would need work but im not sure how to go about showing him this, i will admit my maths is terrible. He does love numbers though hes always chanting them over and over and spotting numbers everywhere.

Melmamma, i have tried to get him to count on in his head but he dosnt get it at all, even if i said 5 + 1 keep 5 in your head then add 1 showing him a finger, whats 5 and 1 more, and he couldnt do it he had to count out 5 fingers then another 1. He can do it with a number line but struggles with taking away even with that. The confusing thing is his teacher has always told me hes doing fine academically in the top set of his class but he seems to struggle so much.

HauntedLittleLunatic Tue 20-Nov-12 10:46:49

I would say to keep working with objects and counters.

Use a large piece of paper or similar to work on (ie. You can only use the counters on the paper you aren't allowed to steal more from the toy box!)

Work on addition first. Work with different objects (blocks, pasta, buttons) so he can eventually see that they are representing numbers and aren't just blocks.

Once he is confident with you giving him the right number of blocks then get collect the right number. I.e. you tell him you want to start with 5 blocks (let him collect them and put them on paper) and then you add 2 more. Then he counts all the blocks on the paper (7).

When he is confident with that then give him a mathematical sum (5+2) and ask him how he can use the blocks. Let him talk you through it.

By doing this stepwise he should be able to relate the numbers to objects he can count, and sums to the movement of objects.

Once he can do that then go back to the number line.

ChippingInLovesAutumn Tue 20-Nov-12 10:49:30

I would save yourself the head bashing stuff about money - it is just not overly worth the frustration at this stage, that will come.

I don't like the way maths is taught at the local schools (in most schools nationally I guess) - I think the way 'we' were taught was better, but given it's the 'current thinking' then I think you need to try to work with that as much as possible, but I don't think that teaching other ways is a bad thing - for example, they teach the 'times tables' by doing 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 NOT 1x2 is two, 2x2 is four 3x2=6 so all they can do is count in multiples and have no idea what 4x2 is without going 2,4,6,8 - drives me up the wall. Is is important to understand what it means, but I think it's also important to know what 4x2 is without having to work it out.

A lot of maths is taught using sentences - so 'If J has 6 apples and gives K 4 of them, how many does J still have?' rather than just 6-4=? I think both are important.

I think you should keep doing what you are doing with actual objects and use different language so he gets used to that as well (ie take away, less, minus, add, another, plus).

They do use negative numbers early on as well, so try not to tell him that he can't 'take away' more than is actually there as on a number line he can... but that is tricky to do as you can't physically give away more than you have smile

It's no wonder they get confused is it!!

ChippingInLovesAutumn Tue 20-Nov-12 10:53:50

Oh and really, I wouldn't worry - he is probably doing as well or better than most of the kids in his class if the teacher is happy with how he is progressing. You wonder how that can be possible given how little you feel they understand confused but it does seem quite 'normal'.

ChippingInLovesAutumn Tue 20-Nov-12 10:54:45

I think the old fashioned 'rods' are good too - see if you can get a box of those. (Do you know what I mean?)

ChippingInLovesAutumn Tue 20-Nov-12 10:57:23

Or lego if you have that - just the plain blocks, it makes it easy to see that two of the 1's are the same as a 2, that 1 of the 2's and 2 of the 1's are the same as a 4. A four is a four whether it's a square or rectangle etc Just playing with those rather than 'teaching' is really good too.

wheredidiputit Tue 20-Nov-12 11:28:17


Could you ask if your dc school could do parent workshops. My dc school has just started doing both maths and Phonic workshops for parents as teaching has changed so much since we were at school. We have also just started 'Impact' for learning to help with writing.

These have been very useful just to get an idea as to how dc are taught.

Allonsy Tue 20-Nov-12 11:37:26

thanks for all advice i will go back to basics with him he is very easily frustrated though and often gets bored and angry if he cant undertand something so will go gently. Not sure what the rods are chipping? will definatly try with lego and other objects, not sweets though he has sensory issues and food will be crammed immediately into the mouth! wink I know i should trust the school that all is ok but i have doubt about the school in general, i mentioned on the other thread that they dont teach correct letter formation, ds does numbers and letters backwards and his teacher wasnt bothered at all. He can only read a handful of words the rest is from memory and homework time often ends up in anxiety and upset until i tell him the word myself. He is only young though so im sure it will all come in time.

They dont have any sort of parent workshops, last year they had planned to invite parents into to discuss phonics with them but it was cancelled, it appears not many parents are intrested in going to things like this, its a deprived area they ask every year if anyone wants to form a PTA but there is never any intrest

wheredidiputit Tue 20-Nov-12 12:46:58


My dc school is in a deprived area and yes there may only be the same faces and maybe only 5 or 6 of us. But the school still feel it is important to put the time and effort in as slowly we are getting those other parents in.

Tinuviel Tue 20-Nov-12 19:50:56

Cuisenaire rods

I think these are what Chipping means. You can get wooden or plastic ones and there are newer ones that actually connect. I found them really helpful for DS2 and have used them with all 3 of mine for all kinds of maths including fractions and algebra. Lego would work too but what I like about Cuisenaire rods is that the colours are consistent - so red is always 2, light green always 3 etc. I started DD with colour sums - light green + red = and she would find the rod that was as long as those 2 together and colour the answer yellow. They are great for teaching that numbers are predictable/consistent too.

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