While it may sound simple, children need to be able to count, or name whole numbers in order. There is a difference between naming numbers and counting, and students need to be able to do both. Naming numbers is saying the names of numbers in order without actually counting anything. Students should see the patterns in numbers and how the names and actual numerals follow a pattern and predictable order. Using a hundreds chart (a simple grid with the numbers from 1-100 arranged in rows of ten) can be a great way to help students see patterns and to practice counting. Practice counting real items is helpful also. You can count just about anything, M&Ms, raisins, socks in the laundry, or dishes on the table at dinner time, it doesn’t need to be fancy or store bought to be helpful. Children also need to be able to match number names with the number symbol and the amount of the number. Dice are a great way to introduce and practice this skill. Simply roll the dice, count the dots and match it to the numeral. Children will begin by having to count the dots each time, but with practice will begin to see the group of dots as a whole number.
Children should be able to count by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s in the primary grades. Not only can it help them to count large quantities of items quicker, but it also lays the ground work for beginning multiplication. Children need to be reminded of this, as they will often return to 1-1 counting when presented with a large group of objects to count. Reinforce how much easier it is to count by groups, not to mention quicker. Practice with different amounts as well, and relate it to every day items. For example, ask questions like, “How many wheels on 4 bicycles?” or ”How many fingers on 3 people? “ Children can begin by drawing pictures to answer or counting real objects. Practice over time will lead to automaticity, or children being able to automatically identify amounts.
Place value is another important concept for children to master in the primary grades. Our number system is a base ten system, which means 10 ones equals one 10, 10 tens equals 100 and so on. Children need lots of practice and experience identifying tens and ones to help them prepare for addition and subtraction with regrouping. A strong knowledge of place value will also help students with decimals and percentages in later grades. Practice identifying the value of numbers by asking questions like, “How much is the 2 worth in the number 28?”, or write numbers in expanded form such as 20 +8 =28 to help children see place value.
Lastly, skills practice is a great way to reinforce a child’s concept of numbers and addition and subtraction. Children need to have automatic recognition of numbers and basic facts. Flash cards are an obvious yet effective way for a child to get more practice. Worksheets and timed practice quizzes are effective also. The more automatic a child can become in recognizing numbers and basic facts, the more successful they will be in solving more complicated tasks such as regrouping or multiplication. Once simple facts are memorized, students can focus on more difficult tasks like the steps of regrouping, or multiplication.
In this era of high stakes testing there is more pressure than ever on students to perform and perform well. Schools are working hard to prepare students for success and parents can easily help. With a few simple strategies and a little time parents can support their children and ensure that their child has the foundation necessary to be successful in math.
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Article Added on Sunday, February 21, 2010
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