How To Teach a Young Child to Add and Subtract

Your child’s learning to add and subtract is his entryway towards more advanced mathematical learning. After all, he couldn’t begin to learn how to multiply, divide, or do percentages if he doesn’t understand the concept of addition or subtraction. That’s why it’s very important that you know of the best strategies for teaching these basic mathematical concepts. Though your child may not be in school yet, you could start laying down the foundations of addition and subtraction so he could get an early start. This will definitely benefit him during his early school years.

  • Teach in a relaxed atmosphere. Studies show that a child’s attitude towards math is just as important as cognitive abilities and mathematical skill. That’s why you should train your young child to associate Mathematics with positive feelings and accomplishment.
  • Make sure that your child is already comfortable with number concepts. Your child should have a solid foundation in number concepts before you guide him to the more complicated procedures of addition and subtraction. He shouldn’t just have memorized the sequence of numbers from one to at least ten. He should also have a clear comprehension that each figure and number word represents a specific number of objects.
  • Give concrete examples. Children until age six are in their concrete operational stage; that is, they learn best when they are taught using tangible, physical illustrations instead of abstract ones. The key here is this – the more concrete, the better. Though you could definitely use drawings to assist your teaching of mathematical concepts, it’s even better if you could actually use “realia” or real objects during your explanation of addition and subtraction.
  • Teach him what addition and subtraction really signifies. In some traditional schools, children are simply made to memorize that “one plus one equals two.” However, you should begin by explaining the idea of addition. Use the common preschool technique of using a story or a relevant situation to illustrate what addition means. “If you had two pencils and I gave you one more, how many pencils do you have altogether?”
  • Stick to his progress levels. It’s your job to closely observe how fast his progression is with regards to this subject. Typically for a kindergarten student, you should stick to teaching addition with sums equal to or less than 10. Once your student gets comfortable with this, you could move on to teaching addition with sums equal to or less than 20. Move on to teaching addition with double-digits; just make sure that there are no “carrying” of digits involved.
  • Use flashcards. Once your student has grown comfortable with the concept of addition and subtraction, and once he has also shown progress in his ability to add or subtract using concrete aids, you could guide him towards mental calculations. Use flashcards to help him commit to memory the sums/differences of two numbers. You could allow him first to use his fingers to count out the sums or differences. After a while, encourage him to remember what the sum/difference of two numbers are. Point out to him that two and three added together is the same as three and two added together. This will help improve his speed at adding and subtracting.

Teaching your child to add and subtract all starts with fostering a positive attitude about Math. Give him lots of encouragement, and be there to guide him whenever he needs it. Observe him closely and monitor his rate of progress, and try to match this rate by giving him more advanced exercises, as appropriate.


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