# help with first grader and math

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my first grader has always loved his math and has always sped through it. but now it seems we've hit a snag and i'm not quite sure how to 'review' or get him past it.

he does fine with the work that shows a picture, and it asks him to add or subtract and fill in the answer. but when the picture is taken away, he has no clue how to figure out the problem. i'm wondering where he's falling short. is it that he just needs to do more of it and memorize the addition facts? or is there something specific that i'm not seeing that he needs to work on? he can count on his fingers, but he's been through all that this past year and it seems he should be moving on. i'm wondering what wasn't covered thoroughly enough for him.

(we use singapore math)

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I know that kids may not like it (especially boys), but drill is important. My son does best with being able to see pictures as well, but having said that, learning his math facts via drill has helped alot. We play "basketball" drill. He and I throw/roll the ball back and forth. He drills me and I drill him. Or I will offer rewards if he can get ten drill problems correct. (All of this is oral, of course!) I think it is just the next step from seeing it on paper to being able to see it in his head.

We use Saxon and it does a pretty good job of mixing manipulatives, with written drill and oral drill. You may try incorporating some of that with your lessons.

Hope this helps!:001_smile:

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Memorizing math facts and the ability to USE the memorized facts are two completely different things. I much rather see a child continue to use visuals than be forced to slow down until their brain can handle the abstract-and that may be a while... When a child uses a visual/manipulative it REINFORCES the concept and shows that they KNOW what they are doing. When a child answers 8 + 3 = 11 because they just memorized the 'fact' it only shows that they can memorize...not that they can APPLY that information.

I think homeschoolers place too much emphasis on memorization (which is not necessarily a bad thing)--but in early math the concptual knowledge is much more important... let him use his fingers, draw pictures, teach him touch points (Touch Math) or let him use manipulatives... these are all age appropriate things--even for 'advanced' math students!

I don't worry so much about the basic fact memorization until 5th grade---up till then we did work on them-- but I did not force the issue (like stopping a program until they KNEW them or could work them within a certain time).

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Singapore goes from concrete and pictorial to abstract (i.e. pictures to equations). It sounds as if your son is having problems with the jump - and it is a hard jump to make for some kids. I think your son doesn't completely understand the conceptual reason underlying the problems. You said your ds is in first grade - is he 6? It can take a bit for the brain to mature enough to "get" the concept of adding/subtracting. In the mean time, let him use an abacus or something to help him understand.

I would probably slow way down and really work on the math. Do you have any of the extra books Singapore uses? If not, I highly recommend getting the Extra Practice book. This supplement has problems on the same level of difficulty as the Workbook and would provide (ha) extra practice your son needs. I use Intensive Practice and CWP with my son; however, right now, I think IP might be too difficult for your son. If money is really tight, there are any number of free math drill worksheet sites you can use. Don't time the drill sheets - just start where your ds is (or even a little easier in order to build confidence) and work on problems.

And *for you* see if your library has Liping Ma's Knowing and Understanding Elementary Mathematics. This isn't an instruction manual, per se, but does give some tips for teaching math to kids. Also, look at getting the HIG for your ds's level (1A/B, right?). This book gives you strategies for teaching your son. Don't try to move on to other concepts right now. If your son doesn't understand adding/subtracting now, he'll become easily frustrated and could end up hating math later.

Edited by brehon
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My first grader likes to have a number line around for days when his brain is tired. I had him make one and we pull it out for math time. If he needs it he can use it, but I think just knowing it is there makes him more confident. Sometimes before he grabs it I will ask him to try to visualize the number line and quite often, that will be enough for him.

I don't practice a ton of drills with him, but I have made sure he knows his doubles very well. It is less to memorize at once, but it makes it faster doing addition and subtraction. It also gives him good practice doing multiple step mental math.

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he's currently in the singapore 1B. he whizzed through all the other stuff, and got to this book early and then just got really frustrated. so what i'm hearing is that it's ok to continue through the book and where the book removes the pictures and just has equations, then it would be ok for him to have counters of his own to figure it out with? this would be better for him than to go back and redo book 1A over and over again? and if he's still counting on his fingers, that's ok too? i just wasn't sure if it will click when it's supposed to, or if i should be going back and repeating something.

i think he's really struggling with the tens/ones concept. he has a hard time looking at a double-digit number and separating the tens and the ones. so when the picture groups things to show how the equation should be broken down, he just counts everything. i think he's just not quite understanding the grouping concept.

thanks for all the advice! :)

Edited by deemk
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My son's finishing up 1B this year as well.

He's still struggling with the two-digit subtraction and occasionally addition.

I make him go to the base-10 blocks and illustrate the situation.

We've done some drill with the basic facts but he's still struggling.

As long as he goes to the base-10 blocks instead of guessing, I'm fine with this. And if he keeps using the blocks, eventually it'll be faster for him just to memorize :001_smile:.

I am doing a LOT of supplemental work as well. I've picked up a few additional books that give addition/subtraction practice and I have him do occasional pages from them. And 2A/B has a lot of addition/subtraction as well (3 digit numbers etc), so if we're still pulling out base-10 blocks regularly at this time next year I'll be concerned, but for now, just keep using the concrete practice.

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okay, this might seem silly, but i've never understood how to use those base-10 blocks. i look at them at the store and can't picture how i'm supposed to use them. i have bingo chips that i've used as counters for him, but how are the base-10 blocks better?

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okay, this might seem silly, but i've never understood how to use those base-10 blocks. i look at them at the store and can't picture how i'm supposed to use them. i have bingo chips that i've used as counters for him, but how are the base-10 blocks better?

Before I'm going to move on to place 10 mats, where you put a chip in the 10's column and that means 1 10 or 10, I have columns where I put a "10 stick" as we call them (hundred flats, thousand cubes, and the singles he calls "tofus" as ours are natural wood) to represent how many 10s there are. I don't think he could jump right to "one chip in this column really means 10, and one in that column really means 100" phase.

So, If I'm teaching subtraction with borrowing, I'd put 6 rods together and, say, 3 tofus, and when I tell him to subtract 7, he is to move the 63 into a 50 group and a 13 group and do the subtraction from there. Works well for us.

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he's currently in the singapore 1B. he whizzed through all the other stuff, and got to this book early and then just got really frustrated. so what i'm hearing is that it's ok to continue through the book and where the book removes the pictures and just has equations, then it would be ok for him to have counters of his own to figure it out with? this would be better for him than to go back and redo book 1A over and over again? and if he's still counting on his fingers, that's ok too? i just wasn't sure if it will click when it's supposed to, or if i should be going back and repeating something.

i think he's really struggling with the tens/ones concept. he has a hard time looking at a double-digit number and separating the tens and the ones. so when the picture groups things to show how the equation should be broken down, he just counts everything. i think he's just not quite understanding the grouping concept.

thanks for all the advice! :)

I really like how RightStart teaches this: for 23 - don't think twenty-three, think 2-ten 3-ones; for 16 - don't think sixteen, think 1-ten 6-ones. You see the difference? This really helped my ds (who also uses Singapore) to understand the tens/ones concept. Also having him use an abacus let him physically manipulate tens and ones. Any manipulative would do that: have him stack poker chips (or whatever) in groups of 10 and see how many are left (the ones). A lot of kids seem to hit a wall part way through 1B. It's OK - I don't think he needs to repeat 1A necessarily. Just let him use whatever concrete manipulative he needs to in order to work the equations. Yes, the understanding will come. Just give it time and let his brain mature. And don't push him in order to finish the book by some deadline.

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Oh, we hit the 1B wall too. Becca just wasn't truly getting the information. For your DS, I'd say it's just fine to let him use the manipulatives if he needs them. Don't want to toss him overboard without a life jacket yet! ;)

We did switch over to Right Start as well as taking a step back - the games are a big plus for how Becca learns. I also think we might have hit that maturity/math issue.

We don't have the base 10 blocks either, but we have bundled straws or popsicle sticks together in tens. We also glued ten beans to a popsicle stick and used single beans for ones. You could also take those unifix(?) blocks and snap together a block of ten... the possibilities are endless!

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I bought a base-10 block set. It came with a book that also gives explanations and suggestions of its use.

It's just like the illustrations in the book.

If you have 43-28, I'll have ds take out 43 as 4 ten rods and 3 ones.

He can't take 8 ones away from the 3 ones (we'll sometimes use the illustration of him buying something from me and he needs to give me the exact amount). So he needs to exchange one ten rod for 10 ones.

Now he's got 3 ten rods and 13 ones. (Note how this is EXACTLY what's going to be happening with borrowing and it's exactly how it's denoted with the shortcut of showing the 1 with the 3 - we'll see this in book 2.)

He needs to give me 28, so he gives me 2 ten rods and 8 ones.

He can see that he's left with 1 ten rod and 5 ones, so he's got 15.

You can do the same things with addition. Once you have over 10 singles, you exchange it for a ten rod.

With the base-10 blocks, my son was pretty easily able to do a 3-digit addition and subtraction problem when I gave it to him as a challenge.

The hundred blocks are flats and there's a 1000 cube.

The book that came with the set will also show some illustrations for using it for multiplication. I think it'll also work great for making a connection between the arithmetic and geometry. You can set up a rectangle and SEE the area as how many blocks it takes to cover the rectangle. That's multiplication :)

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