2003-10-30 / Other News

Answers From the Teacher

Darra Wheeler Happ
Answers From the Teacher Darra Wheeler Happ

How can I help my first-grade son learn his addition facts? His math homework consists of math worksheets which aren’t challenging or interesting. Is it okay for him to count on his fingers, or should he be memorizing the facts by now? He’s not very confident about math.

Counting fingers may work well while he’s learning, but eventually he needs to know his tables and rules without having to count each time. You can help your son improve by teaching him to become familiar with certain types of problems and certain addition properties. For instance, the commutative property of addition means that 3+2=5 and that 2+3=5. Once certain number combinations are memorized, the numbers can be reversed, but the answer always stays the same. Another concept is the doubles. 2+2, 3+3, and so on. Once the doubles are mastered, then doubles plus one makes many more addition problems easy to solve. Because subtraction and addition are opposite but similar operations, once the addition facts are mastered, the subtraction ones are more easily understood.

Students are often asked to write "fact families" for numbers. A fact family would be the addition and subtraction number sentences (also sometimes called solution sentences) for a set of numbers. An example of this would be 2+3=5, 3+2=5, 5-2=3, and 5-3=2. Fact families help students understand that subtraction and addition are related.

Help your son to understand that it’s okay to make a mistake or a bad guess when he’s working with numbers. He can always make another guess or try another strategy to find an answer. He will gain some confidence once he knows his facts. I also suggest you try to have some fun while helping your son learn addition. Count out small crackers or cookies to show numbers. It helps children to see what certain numbers look like. Math homework should be more than just worksheets. You can make it fun for your son by helping him see the numbers and master the facts that way.

I just received a progress report from my daughter’s fifth-grade teacher and it says that she’s missing several assignments. How come the teacher didn’t notify me sooner? School’s been in session for five weeks.

The mid-quarter report is often the first time that teachers notify parents of a student’s progress, or lack of progress. During the first few weeks of school, students are still learning the routine of a classroom and the expectations of the teacher. By the fifth week though, most expectations have been established and the quarter is half over. Mid-quarter reports are designed to notify parents and students if a student is failing. Rather than your calling the teacher at this point, direct your daughter to talk to the teacher about what she can do to improve her grades before the end of the quarter. Perhaps she can make up the missing work or complete some extra credit assignments. Since your daughter is in middle school, she should be able to discuss these matters with the teacher herself. If things don’t get resolved in a reasonable or timely manner, you may then need to call the teacher and discuss how to get your daughter on the right track.

Send questions to: Answers from the Teacher, P.O. Box 54, South Egremont, MA 01258. Questions may also be emailed to ateacher@bcn.net.

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