Or how to lay a background with numbers that will make learning math facts easier for children
What about the second grader who can’t do his math homework?
This morning I took a call from a parent of a second grader who is having a really tough time with keeping up with math in his classroom. Over time, he has learned to count to 20 and can also count by fives and tens, but at this point he grinds to a halt. I will call Mom, Angela. Angela has devoted herself to advocating for him with his school; she also spends time before and after school with her son not only working on homework with him, but on beginning to lay a foundation for him that over time will help him recoup his ability to do math successfully.
Angela said she’d gotten her hands on our Right-Brained Addition & Subtraction book and was working through Chapter 4. Her primary angst, and what prompted her phone call, revolves around the fact that she is (wisely) going back to the beginning to lay missing groundwork at the same time she is fielding input from school and helping with homework that her child is not able to successfully complete at this point. This is a difficult position to be in – starting over at the same time you are keeping going!
There is hope!
For those of you who have a child who is in this situation, let me hasten to say that there is hope! There are some things you can do to help! For those of you who have young children, before it comes to a struggle, do some cool, fun things to help your child lay a good visual background for numbers and computation! And in this blog post hopefully you will find a bit of clarity on how to do that.
Using Right-Brained Addition & Subtraction
Because teaching math from a right-brained perspective is vastly different from traditional ways of teaching, the first section of this book is devoted to helping the parent or teacher understand the important elements utilized in teaching visual or right-brained learners. What the tools are and why they work.
Chapter 1 talks about looking at the child first. It compares traditional approaches to teaching math with various learning styles, discusses teaching math to various ages and stages of learners and what you can expect as the teacher. Traditional and non-traditional learners are contrasted and finally general teaching guidelines are detailed.
Chapter 2 details several elements that make for good teaching practice, opening with the rationale behind each one and followed by instructions for implementing each element.
Chapter 3 touches lightly but succinctly on how to use assessments in helpful ways to both teacher and child.
Part II is comprised of the method, and I can’t wait to get to that!
In Chapter 4 we learn numbers. This includes recognizing their symbols, counting to 20, ordering numbers in the right sequence to 20, supplying missing numbers, finding patterns in an array of numbers, and finally writing the numbers to 10 correctly. This chapter is necessary background.
Chapter 5 gets us into the good stuff. We need to lay a visual background for HOW MANY each number is. So we will utilize some visual tools to make this happen and those tools and their usage will manifest as games we play.
It is at this most interesting stage in the process of laying a solid foundation for working with numbers that the adults tend to become impatient with the process. After all, images are not going to make adding and subtracting happen, right? It feels in our hurry like we are wasting time. I most certainly did not have time to do this sort of thing when I was a classroom teacher! We had to rush to get through the book and its contents in the amount of time we were allotted for math. So we went right to computation and children learned to count on their fingers to get by. Results were marginal.
How to lay a visual background for computation
I think we’d all agree that our ability to remember images is much stronger than anything we memorize. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” right? That saying is still true! If children are introduced to numbers first not only with their symbol but with dot patterns that show the how many of each number, they will be ahead of the game already.
See these examples:
Here is 3. Notice that in these two cards, the
arrangements of the dots are hinting at future computation. The second card
shows a picture of what 1+2=3 looks like. But at this point we are not teaching
computation; we are simply laying a visual collection of images for computation
from which the child will draw later.
Progress through Chapter 5 laying more and more visual background first for the how many of each number, but then for how that number relates to 10. For example, if you have a dot card for 7, how many more to 10?
We have super hefty playing cards made for you that are double laminated for durability. These are great because not only are the cards in color, but each number bears its own color. Color-coding is really helpful for some children!
Chapter 6 begins the transition from visual to symbolic, show the meaning of computation, and provides a brain and body connection for computation. All this is multisensory learning at its finest – something helpful for every child, but most especially children who don’t thrive with regular approaches to math.
This chapter utilizes several right-brained elements to prepare the child for the process of internalizing the facts to 10 – both adding and subtracting. It uses story, the child’s own hands, laying these elements on top of the visualization already done in the previous chapter.
Chapter 7 is the chapter you will park on once you feel your child has laid excellent groundwork for computation in Chapters 4-6. In this chapter you will create a real world context for computation which will lend relevance and answer the question ahead of time “Why do I need to learn this?”
The combination of right-brained strategies employed will not only help your child love math, but will make learning fun. My own experience in teaching math using this approach was that children emerged with a level of fluency with computation that was unusual. There was no counting on fingers, no tears, no sighing and whining! Children did come ask for more math practice, and they always knew exactly where they needed to practice towards mastery! Let’s come together and help our children love learning!