# What to do when a particular math problem type just isn't clicking

## Recommended Posts

We are new homeschoolers. My 6yo has been plowing through MM 1st grade very successfully. She has found all the worksheets very understandable until we got to "How Many More". This is in the subtraction section but the problems are being posed as part word problem, part addition sentence. Example:

Jill has 5. Jack has 3.

___ + ____ = _____

____ has ___ more.

These problems completely stump her. She doesn't understand what's being asked. She continuously tries to add up the total number of things they have. I have been over the hill and around the bend with manipulatives and the abacus trying to get this through and it just isn't happening and we are both really frustrated. She understands most of the subtraction just fine . . . just not these problems.

Do I just move on because this particular type of problem isn't essential or stop here because she doesn't completely understand?

I feel stuck and really lame.

##### Share on other sites

Work through it with her. Given the way it's worded, it will take time for the concept to click. I would explain the third line is asking two things: "Who has more?" and "How many more does that person have?" Comparing c-rods, we can see Jill has more. We then compare Jill's five to Jack's three. How many more does Jill have than Jack? We find the missing c-rod: two. Then I help complete the fill-in-the-blank: if Jill has 5 and Jack has 3, Jill has more, 2 more. Then I repeat the whole exercise, pausing for her answers: "Jill has 5, Jack has 3. 5+3=8. Jack and Jill together have 8. Jill has more than Jack, 2 more."

Everytime you come across this question, I'd recommend you break the third line into the two questions and walk her through the steps.

##### Share on other sites

I had a child who had a lot of trouble with these for a while too.

Practice with real life objects.

Have shoes and socks. Or work it into setting the table -- cups and saucers. Forks and spoons. Napkins and plates. That sort of thing.

##### Share on other sites

Practice with real life objects.
I initially used chocolate chips and gave DD's sister more. "______ has more" takes on immediate meaning when _____ is your sister. :P
##### Share on other sites

I initially used chocolate chips and gave DD's sister more. "______ has more" takes on immediate meaning when _____ is your sister. :P

Agree totally. I was teaching my son halves and asked him to cut a circle in half, which he did not succeed at. I asked him, "if this was a cookie, which "half" would you take?" Of course he took the bigger one, and said he took it b/c it was bigger. I explained it was then not a half, and he got it right away. :)

It does look like the phrasing of that math problem makes it seem more difficult. Honestly they look backwards to me. If it was me I would swap the two bottom lines -- so say,

Jill has 5. Jack has 3.

____ has ___ more. and *then*

___ + ____ = _____

To me that makes more sense, because then she'll see one kid has 2 more than the other...and it might click, "oh! 2+3 = 5." Maybe?

Edited to ask: Am *I* even doing this problem right? I swear...I love math and my degrees are in math but some of the elementary stuff still boggles my mind. haha

Edited by ErinMarie123
I'm tired!
##### Share on other sites

I would use math rods like the MUS or C rods. Put a 5 above a 3 and you will see that the 3 is 2 shorter. Using the bar method ala Singapore might work as well, or drawing a picture of the problem.

I'd also make it abundantly clear that the problem is asking two totally separate questions using the same set of facts. Otherwise, my kid would be trying to some how use the 8 to figure an answer.

##### Share on other sites

We are new homeschoolers. My 6yo has been plowing through MM 1st grade very successfully. She has found all the worksheets very understandable until we got to "How Many More". This is in the subtraction section but the problems are being posed as part word problem, part addition sentence. Example:

Jill has 5. Jack has 3.

___ + ____ = _____

____ has ___ more.

These problems completely stump her. She doesn't understand what's being asked. She continuously tries to add up the total number of things they have. I have been over the hill and around the bend with manipulatives and the abacus trying to get this through and it just isn't happening and we are both really frustrated. She understands most of the subtraction just fine . . . just not these problems.

Do I just move on because this particular type of problem isn't essential or stop here because she doesn't completely understand?

I feel stuck and really lame.

This is a hard thing for children to grasp for semantic reasons (as in, you're right, she literally doesn't understand what's being asked).

I remember the same problem with my son when we use Singapore Earlybird. He did not understand what was being asked and no inflection in my voice was getting him to understand "how much more."

So (after more time than I care to admit) I grabbed some Cuisenaire Rods.

Jill has (pull out a 5 cm rod) "Five" and Jack has (pull out 3 cm rod) "Three." How many more does Jill have? He says "Two". Completely understands what has been seemingly incomprehensible (for longer than I'd care to admit) in about two minutes.

Lesson learned. On his end and mine.

Bill

##### Share on other sites

This is a hard thing for children to grasp for semantic reasons (as in, you're right, she literally doesn't understand what's being asked).

In reading about research on how children think about mathematics, I was surprised to learn that "how many more/less" is the absolute most difficult type of question to ask a young student, because the question doesn't prompt any activity in the child's imagination. Simply rewording the problem can make a world of difference in the child's understanding: "How many should we give Jack so they will have the same number of things?"

## Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

Only 75 emoji are allowed.