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DS aged 6 is just not getting number bonds to 10. Any tips?

(39 Posts)
Blatherskite Sun 02-Mar-14 17:13:34

DS will be 7 in a few weeks and is in year 2 at school. At the last couple of parents evenings his teacher has asked us to work with him on learning his number bonds to 10 so that he knows them off by heart but he just doesn't seem to be able to get them no matter what we try.

Homework this week was to practice these number bonds and to talk about how these help you add larger numbers to 20 (eg 17 and 3) and even bigger numbers to 100 (eg 30 and 70). It's all ended in tears sad

We've tried singing the number bond song (9 and 1 are number bonds, 8 and 2 are friends etc), using his favourite Lego to work out the bonds, we've written them out, he used his fingers.... We've used cars in the past, we have a number line on the wall, he has a printed out, ruler sized one that we laminated - nothing seems to help.

I don't want to pressure him but we are getting to the point where this is starting to hold him back now. Does anyone have any other tips on how we can help him please?

Cindy34 Sun 02-Mar-14 17:19:42

I don't get 'number bonds' either, but I know 4+6, 3+7,2+8 are all equal to 10.

So maybe change the language... Ask what two numbers equals the number. So if doing number bonds of 10, then ask what two numbers added together make 10. How many of them can they think of, and are any the same... such as 2+8 being same as 8+2.

Using Lego is a good idea. Does he get that two pieces of Lego put end to end, equals a certain number of stubs? So a 1x6 brick next to a 1x4 brick results in a length of 10?

finallydelurking Sun 02-Mar-14 17:23:43

Does his school use numicon? Have the school offered you any help/suggestions on how you can support him at home?

3littlefrogs Sun 02-Mar-14 17:27:53

DS2 worked this out himself with 2 bowls of conkers.

10 in one, the other empty. Then moving one conker at a time into the empty bowl and counting the contents of both.

It was a light bulb moment.

Maybe you are trying too many different techniques and he is getting overloaded?

BackforGood Sun 02-Mar-14 17:35:14

I too was going to suggest doing it physically.

Get a clear plastic bag (large sandwich bag maybe) and put in 10 smallish objects (lego bricks are ideal). Seal the bag.
Then get him to move them around so there are 4 on one side, 6 on the other, or 3 on one side, 7 on the other. The bag is sealed so he can see none are being added or taken away, it's just a case of arranging them, or splitting them in different ways.


Get some squared paper, and mark the edge of the line of 10.
Give him 2 colours.
On the first line, colour one square blue, and the rest red
On the next line down, colour 2 blue, then the rest in red
On the 3rd line, colour 3 in blue then the rest in red
etc - you will end up with a set of steps.
Then get him to write at the end 1 (blue) + 9 (red) = 10 (squares altogether (he doesn't have to write the words, but you have to show him what he's counting)
Then 2 + 8 = 10 at the end of the 2nd line, etc.

Very often children have to do something physically to understand what is being talked about.
No point in doing the 17 + 3 or 70 + 30 questions until he's 'got' the number bonds to 10.

Blatherskite Sun 02-Mar-14 18:07:17

Today I dug out 10 2x2 red LEGO bricks and 10 2x2 blue brinks and used those to try and make it physical learning because I think this works better with him.

First I made 2 lines of 10 and swapped one at a time so that I had 9 red + 1 blue etc with the opposite on the other line. Then I moved the red ones onto 2 pieces of paper and moved first one at a time from page to page to show the 'bonds' and then moved random amounts and tried covering one pile to see if he could guess what was there from what he could see. I also got a long grey piece and moved blocks from above it to below so that he could see that there were still 10 there.

School have been helpful in the past. It was them who gave him the number lines and I know that his teacher knows all about his LEGO obsession so I'm sure she's tried using that. I will go in and talk to her again I think. I've not heard of Numicon.

I like the idea of using 1x6 brick next to a 1x4 brick to demonstrate the bonds. We could try that in the same way as BackforGood's square colouring idea.

I really don't want to confuse him any more by using too many techniques but I also know that we obviously haven't found the one for him yet so I feel like I need to keep trying.

teafor1 Sun 02-Mar-14 19:47:40

I've got 6 year old who's having trouble with number bonds as well. He understands the concept but the instant recall is not coming. What I'm trying at the moment is having him do 5 questions on a white board every day. He gets a small sweet as motivation. I'm mixing up the question format: 2+_=10, 10-3=_ etc. I'm hoping the practice will cause the facts to sink in.

OhNoYouExpedidnt Sun 02-Mar-14 19:53:21

I play ping pong with my class. They love it. I think the easiest way is to write down how it goes, but you'd better appreciate it as I'm on my phone!
T-teacher C-class

T- Ping
C- pong
T ping
C pong
T ping
C pong
T 6
C 4
T 6
C 4
T ping
C pong
T ping
C pong
T 8
C 2
T 8
C 2
T ping
C pong
T ping
C pong


I start the year with them written down on the board and they find it and read it off but they soon remember them and can say them by heart.

Blatherskite Sun 02-Mar-14 19:53:40

That's our problem teafor1. He can work it out either counting in his head or using fingers but the teacher wants him to be able to do them by rote and it's just not coming. We've been getting him to do 2 or 3 on and off all afternoon and he can do it but it's not as instant as it should be.

Blatherskite Sun 02-Mar-14 19:55:08

That sounds like fun OhNoYouExpedidnt Maybe we can play that in the car on the way to school smile

tiredbutnotweary Sun 02-Mar-14 20:23:52

You haven't mentioned the number bonds up to 9 - does he know these yet?

If not then really I would start there (with the number bonds for 2), firstly as number bonds to 20 underpin making maths much easier in the future and secondly because it may help to build his confidence to start at the beginning. There are only 2 to learn for the number 2 if you understand that addition gives the same result whichever order the numbers go in.

Here is a link to all of the number bonds to 10 along with the doubles. Start with 2 and only move onto 3 once he's really secure.

I wish that I had helped DD understand that if you know 1+1=2 then you also know that 2-1=1 because I think it would have saved time. DD is now confident with her addition number bonds to 10, and is learning her addition number bonds to 20 BUT is having to learn her subtraction number bonds to 10 as they are more shaky because when we practiced addition to 10 it was not visual enough. If you have 2 block and you keep adding them together and pulling them apart the relationship between addition and subtraction becomes much clearer.

Also remember to work on 0 as it can also be a quick win, helping to boost confidence.

There are also some really good number bond apps if you have an iPad or iPhone. The best will test all the number bonds within 10, not just the number bonds for 10. Even 2 minutes doing this everyday will help to secure them - some children just need to practise a lot more but they can and will get there if they do.

AuditAngel Sun 02-Mar-14 20:35:10

There are some rods you can buy that help with number bonds, not sure what they are called, will look for the name.

AuditAngel Sun 02-Mar-14 20:36:48

Cuisenaire rods

grumpalumpgrumped Sun 02-Mar-14 22:12:31

With number bonds for ten (6 + 4) etc we made up silly rhymes, 7 and 3 do a wee. blush, not ideal but worked. We are having trouble with bonds within 10 though.

teafor1 Mon 03-Mar-14 06:54:33

Tired what the apps you are referring to? Any specific recommendations?

tiredbutnotweary Mon 03-Mar-14 10:04:52

Hi teafor,


Dominoes is a very basic app (it doesn't let you choose a difficulty setting so is covering number bonds to 12) but it is very visual and has a range of games using dominoes. All games are multiple choice. Of course there is a good argument for investing in some real dominoes as they are a very good visual representation of what a number bond is and you could line up all the dominoes that equal 2, 3, 4 etc while saying the sums out loud.

Squeebles Add & Subtract lets you choose to work within 10 or 20 (and beyond) and has a car type subgame. Playing unlocks squeebles and carts to play the subgame. Answers are typed in so must be calculated (so not multiple choice). There is a timer but it just gives a bonus so doesn't add pressure.

Mighty Maths has a range of games and settings as well as a timer which can be used to turn off. Answers are typed in so must be calculated. The number bond game covers bonds for 10, 20 and 100 but the addition & subtraction covers number bonds within 10 or 20 and if you do use the timer you can see improvement from being able to achieve a higher score within the 1 or 2 minutes you choose as the allotted time. It's great for the little but often approach. It also covers x and / too.

Number bonds is very good too but the format does take getting used to for DC if they've never seen it before - it requires another leap, what is the missing number. It is therefore more challenging even when working within the same range of numbers. However you set the number range precisely (so you could choose number bonds between 1 - 3 or 5 - 7 all the way from 1 to 99 basically). It also has a range of games. All games are have multiple choice answers.

Finally Math Town and Math Museum are the only maths games I've found where the game play (of searching out fireflies or dragon flies) is so strong that the maths learning is less noticeable. The setting ranges are excellent 0-10, 11-20 and 20-50 for subtraction and addition and then 1, 2, 5 and 10 then 1 - 10 for multiplication and for Math Museum the same range again for division. It is multiple choice, but in a different way and provides new challenges but in a really cool environment.

All sums are number bonds of their answer, the reason number bonds or facts to 20 are so important is that they help you quickly know the answer to much larger sums, they help you learn how to partition (e.g. 8+7 is trickerier than 8+2 but if you can partition 7 and know that 2+5 = 7 then you see the easier sum 8+2+5 until you just know that 8+7=15. Then 80 + 70, as well as even larger sums where one number ends in 8 and the other in 7.

Hope that helps grin

Blatherskite Mon 03-Mar-14 10:11:46

grumpalumpgrumped I found a song for number bonds that I've been singing with DS. To the tune of Row, row, row your boat sing:

9 and 1 are number bonds
8 and 2 are friends
7 and 3
6 and 4
5 and 5 are twins

Will look for the aps. He loves things like that.

Will also look at the number bonds to 9 thank you tiredbutnotweary.

SilasGreenback Mon 03-Mar-14 10:28:33

Does he have a poor memory for other things/numbers as well? One of mine had a really bad memory at that age - couldn't remember months of the year for example which the others just seemed to absorb and know.

We used to play the game where you add one more thing to a list in turns to improve his memory. Our favored version is 'I went to the moon' and we all pack different things and have to repeat the list each time. This really improved his basic memory skills and made remembering other things much easier.

As to the actual number bonds - I would sit at the top of the stairs, they took one step and i would say for example 4 and they had to tell me what to add to make 10 - so 6 in this case. If they got it right they went up a step, if wrong they went back. Once they reached the top they got a sweet. We didn't talk about number bonds as such, just what you needed to add to make 10.

Once they had learned by rote then we made sure they understood how the numbers worked so could apply it to other examples (for example bonds to 100). They have all ended up as pretty good at maths and logic problems so I don't think the rote learning held them back, but it did give them the confidence to know the answer and then try harder problems.

Wizard19 Mon 03-Mar-14 11:08:42

not get number bonds to 10.

Need to build up to it. No mention of any levels, so need to 1st know more before help can be helpful.

Need to build up from knowlege they have and are confident with.

How well can he cope with 1 more, 1 less? 2 more etc?
Adding numbers to 5.

After they answer 3 + 4, when you ask 4 +3 what response do you get?

(Do they show understanding of " Commutative law " , - they dont need to name it.

When asked 5 + 5, do you get a near instant 10?
This is picked up as children sometimes count using fingers.

Write a number sentence
5 +5 =
Then invite them to write 4 more number sentences, 1more and 1 less on either side of the + sign

1 more, 1 less
6 +4 =
7+3 =
8+2 =
9+1 =

It is really important to get the basic - more basic than bonds understood.

Hope you find some answers in all the questions.

haggisaggis Mon 03-Mar-14 11:17:52

How is his memory? Has he learned any tables? My dd is dyslexic / dyscalculic and just cannot learn number bonds or tables. It has taken me until the final year of primary school to convince the school that they are wasting their and her time trying to get her to learn them. She now has physical cues she can use (number line / table square etc) to push her maths on. Having said that, the current (very good) learning support teacher used Cuisenaire rods with her which has helped a bit.
I know in an ideal world all dc would be able to know number bonds by rote (as well as tables) but it is possible to move on without knowing them.

teafor1 Mon 03-Mar-14 12:27:05

tired Thank you!

haggis I totally agree with you. I have a terrible time with basic maths but have a PhD in a scientific field.

Blatherskite Tue 04-Mar-14 09:53:03

The ping pong game seems to be helping! grin

I wouldn't say his memory is bad. He can remember the rules to quite complex board games and whether or not we've promised him time on minecraft without any problems wink He also remembers endless 'recipes' for things on Minecraft without problems. His teacher told us at last weeks parents evening that he can do one more without hesitation but that one less is taking more thinking about. He's doing OK with times tables - 2's and 10's mostly - and will often start telling them to us unprompted as he is so proud that he knows. His writing is good although he does still form some letters and numbers from the bottom up which is making joined up writing hard and he needs reminding about spaces between words and full stops a lot. His reading is amazing and he sometimes asks to go to bed early so that he can read to himself. He read Flat Stanley pretty much entirely by himself over half term.

I think the problem is that he's just not that interested so he doesn't put a lot of thought into the numbers. I'm going to work on number bonds below 10 with him and work our way up. I've left a note in his homework book regarding the problems we've had with this weeks homework too and will try to get a meeting with his teacher soon to see what she suggests. She is really good and I'm sure will be able to help. Hopefully, working together we can help him. Once he has confidence in his answers, I'm sure he'll be much better as he does seem to give up if he finds something hard and we've had to work hard in everything from swimming to reading to convince him that he can do it and then he's improves rapidly.

Blatherskite Tue 04-Mar-14 09:57:28

I agree too haggis, Maths was never my strong point (as you can probably tell) and yet I have an engineering degree. I would just love to boost his confidence a little as I'd hate him to feel like he can't do this and I know his teacher is pushing. She recognises his lack of confidence too and has been helping him to realise what he can do.

Rooners Tue 04-Mar-14 10:02:19

We did it with a flat board, with a line in the middle made of magnets in our case (but you could do it with lego) to make a 'fence', with a gap in the middle.

Then put ten marbles on one side of the board.

Roll one through the gap - making sheep noises. One sheep has gone through the gate. How many sheep have we got?

9 in one field, 1 in the other. Ten.

Roll another sheep through the gap.

How many have we got? Ten.

Keep going - then take it off the board, into verbal questions, what is 9 and 1? ten, what is 7 and 3? Ten - the answer is always ten, and always right. smile

Mine got it this way

Blatherskite Thu 06-Mar-14 12:17:53

That sounds like a lovely game Rooners. We've got a big green lego board. Maybe I could make some Lego sheep smile

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