Mental Math - What to do if your child struggles with this?

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Mental Math - What to do if your child struggles with this?

Unread post by ShariD »

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 8:46 am
When we started addition and subtraction with regrouping last year, I pulled out the toothpicks and we physically worked through it. (80-25=? 80 is the same as 7 bundles and 10 singles, take away 2 bundles and 5 singles and what do you have left?) I was so happy that he got it right away! This made sense to me because my algebra teacher stressed making things the same before tyring to work with them. I didn't realize I was reinforcing pre-algebra skills with bundles and singles, but I guess I was! Hooray!

My son does think this way, but that is in part from the MFW-K math activities where you grouped tens (we used toothpicks) and had loose singles. He started thinking in making 10s at that time.

Mental Math - What to do if your child struggles with this?

Unread post by cbollin »

The mental math in Singapore is more of a process and thinking skills. It's not just doing math in your head. It's about learning how to set up word problems, and learning the why's of how to do computations, and learning several approaches to solve a problem. I think I'm saying that if you are using the pictorial methods (using pictures to show groups of objects) and "thought bubbles" that are part of the textbook, then you are probably covering the process of the "mental math" of Singapore.

Use manipulatives while teaching from Singapore. Some kids (most of them) still need a very concrete method for learning the concepts.

They look at the pictures in the Singapore text, then let them do this with some blocks or something else to touch. The mental math process in Singapore doesn't mean that you stop using hands on stuff. The hands on items and talking about the mental process helps.

just a few ideas there

P.S. number bonds are just another word for math facts. Add drills for basic operations (flashcards). It is assumed in Singapore Math that the teacher is working on daily drills -- sometimes even out loud with students. I found it helpful for my average learner to draw out a bunch of number bond boxes and lines on the dry erase board and have her cover up the answer and call it out herself.
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Unread post by tatertreezmom »

I do allow him to use manipulatives. We use base ten blocks, beans, buttons, straws, fruit...whatever is available. ;-) However, I guess I didn't understand just exactly when it was ok to use them. I was using them to introduce the concept but then expected him to be able to work the problem mentally. I guess I thought I was supposed to be teaching him how "not" to use manipulatives in order to develop the mental portion.

So...using manipulatives is ok even when working out the problems in his workbook AND even if I can see that he is working the problems in a different way but arriving to the same answer?

Crystal thanks for the clarification of the "number bonds" I didn't realize they were just math facts. I also like your idea of writing the number bonds on a dry erase board and covering up one number. I think my son would like doing that much more than just using flashcards.

Unread post by cbollin »

I was all nervous that my 8 y.o dd was still counting while learning her math facts. She is still counting sometimes to add and subtract. But I started to listen to her and realized that she was getting quicker and quicker at it and needing it less and less. She was able to tell me that she just can’t remember all of it all the time. She was happy the other day when she realized she wasn’t counting as much. Her phrase was something like “oh I finally learned that one! I don’t need to count it.”

A lot of the mental math process for her came along as I let her talk through a problem while using blocks or the book pictures. She needs the blocks less and less as time goes on. She is definitely a kid who needs short practice sessions over many days to learn something.

She wasn't always doing it exactly like the book suggested either until she had lots of practice.

just how it works over here.
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Unread post by Lucy »


Just wanting to encourage you to keep working with it. I agree with Crystal to keep letting him use the manipulatives. It just sounds like to me he just does not quite have the idea of place value down yet or maybe I am missing something. So it would also be alright to sit with him while he works his problems showing him each time how 10 units(ones) makes 1 ten. I am using your example of 65+25. So 6 tens +2 tens + 1 ten. This would be all laid out with the bars and you would have exchanged the 10 unit blocks for 1 ten bar.

I guess I am just trying to say to keep working with it because if he can understand how to manipulate these numbers it will go a long way in helping him in math. He will eventually be able to do it in his head, it just may take a while. It is o.k. if he can not do it yet. Also it is alright to take a few days on one lesson to get the concept. Just keep practicing a few each day even when you move on a new concept.

Hope that helps some.
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Have your child teach the lesson

Unread post by TriciaMR »

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 6:00 pm

I have her teach her Barbie dolls or stuffed animals a subject. (I do limit it to 3, or she'd bring them all, LOL.) I sit in with her "class". She thinks it's cool to have school with her dolls and animals.


Mental math

Unread post by cbollin »

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 11:59 am
We wrote some of them out vertically to begin practicing that as well.

But, for some of them, we just got out some math blocks and built the problems. My dd wasn't ready to do all of that mentally. She still needs manipulatives for it while talking it out loud.

I was working more on helping her to understand the whole problem. For example, the empty box moves around on the different problems. I didn't want her to just think: if the box is here, then I subtract; and if the box is here then I add. (that's the idea with: to find one part, we subtract" or "to find the whole, we add")

So, we would make up little stories with those problems on p.11 of the text. I think that's the lesson you're on. And I worked with my child along the way.

empty box + 25 =40
So, with math manipulatives in front of us, I would say:
I need to have 40 buttons. I have an empty box and 25 on the table. How many buttons should I put in the box so that I have a total of 40?

Then, we would show 40 with math blocks. We would cover up 25 blocks and see that 15 were left.

Then we would talk out loud about the mental math of it (and still using blocks in front of us if needed)
If I have 25, and add in 5, then I have 30. I need 10 more to get up to 40. so, I've added in 5 + 10 which is 15.

But I always have to do that with blocks in the early stages with this child. She needs it.

Just what I did with that page and style of lesson.

looking forward to hearing how others do it, b/c there might be easier ways. :)
TNLisa wrote:Yes - I have the textbook - it says "to find one part, we subtract" or "to find the whole, we add" --- each problem is meant to do mentally. I gotta tell you that sometimes it's hard for ME to do it mentally.
Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 12:10 pm
Singapore Math progresses from concrete to pictorial to abstract. So, with lessons in the thought bubbles (to find the whole, we add) -- I just think of those (thought bubbles) as the "abstract" and teach it after concrete and pictorial methods are done. That is the order that Singapore suggests teaching and is the order I taught it in.

To me, that was also a note to me as teacher. So.... we practice that concept over and over. Then when my daughter was able to do the problems, I then introduced those terms to her. It went something like this:
  • "Look at this, sweetie --- if we know the WHOLE thing and need to find one of the parts, we have been subtracting each time. If we have been needing to find the Whole, then we have added. Neat huh?"
and then I would point out specific problems and have her look where the empty box was. I didn't want her to just look for a box and look for a + or - sign.

In other words, we discovered the pattern and then labeled the pattern. Instead of teaching a rule and following it within the context of each problem. making any sense??
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Unread post by TNLisa »

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 12:05 pm

I did pull out our 100 chart --- this made it easier to do the problems that had "100" in them, like 100-38=___.
She could visualize how many ones were needed, then add up the tens.
Lisa M
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Do you have your kiddies "show work"?

Unread post by Lisa M »

lyntley wrote:Do you have your kiddies "show work"?
I do a little of both. A few she answers in her head and a few she writes down. It has seemed to be enough practice to help her remember how to do both over a few days.

You can always move on, but begin each day with a subtraction and/or addition problem to review until she has it solid.

I make notes about problem areas on the inside cover of the workbook. Then I can remember what they need to work on. It only takes one or two short problems a day to help get it into long term memory. I still do that with my older kids as well (give them a long division problem, divide fractions, etc.) before beginning the new lesson.

And certainly, some concepts will be more of a struggle and take more review.

singapore math

Unread post by cbollin »

sandi wrote:Hi all!
Not new here, just not posted in a while. I am going to try singapore this year with my dd. I have tried it in the past but was scared off. My problem. I do remember on thing that I wanted to check on before I ordered and try again. The first time I tried my kido had a hard time doing the larger number addition and subtraction in his head. Is it necessary that you know how to do this before you move along, or can you just understand how to do it in your head. I mean can you do some of this on paper and continue with the next book, or does the child have to give the answers in his head without figuring it out on paper. I know she will be able to some in her head , but thinking probably not the large problems. She struggles in Math. Anywhoo, thanks for the response. Looking forward to our new school year! Doing ECC and WHL this year!!
Hi Sandi!

My oldest is in WHL too.

No -- the young student in Singapore math is not expecting to do it all in his head. Mental math is a process of how to think about the problem. Some children will catch on quickly and think it is the coolest thing to do in their head. Others, like my middle gal, took longer for a lot of that style. In 1A and 1B - they are teaching the foundations of regrouping to get you to think in your head about the process. I never thought my middle gal had to do it all in her head and never on paper. She wasn't ready for that.

She did singapore 1A-5B from 2nd grade until summer just after 6th grade. She is now in Saxon 87 in 7th grade. and doing fine. I know even a year ago she was still struggling with some "mental math" calculations and now, she's got it.

Julie in MN
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Re: singapore math

Unread post by Julie in MN »

I agree with Crystal.

Present the ideas, make sure she understands the regrouping involved -- and understands well, with the concrete objects, the discussion bubbles, and the numbers -- but let her do problems in whatever way she likes. She may change ways over time.

My son was more motivated to do it in his head because of his alleged pencil allergy, but he was less motivated to draw out bar diagrams for the same reason. A marker board did help work around those issues.

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Singapore Math for child who struggles with abstract

Unread post by TriciaMR »

sarah wrote:It's me again... 7 year old son... getting ready to order Adventures... exploring LA/Math options.... love MFW and trust their recommendations... but my son has had some difficulty translating math concepts into "mental" math. In other words, he can do math much easier with concrete objects and examples (which I know is very common). We have followed the MFW recommendations/ book for 1st grade math and those have helped a lot. He is slowly becoming more able to do math in his head, but he still struggles with certain topics (he struggles with subtraction but easily picks up on time/money, but they are more concrete by nature). No matter how I try to show him (even with concrete objects), he just doesn't get it so I think some of it is just going to have to come with age. Do you think Singapore Math is a good fit for a child like this? Are there any manipulatives in Singapore? Or are you expected to be past that need?
We have blocks back from when I used Math-U-See and use them for Singapore for my kids when they need it. So you can use manipulatives. I don't make my kids do it in their heads if they need to use a manipulative. You can use Cuisinare Rods, beans, the bean sticks from 1st, and even money as manipulatives (money works great for explaining carrying and borrowing).
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Re: Singapore Math for child who struggles with abstract

Unread post by ♥nbamaboyz »

Ds didn't like the first book til he reached around page 100.
We start the second singa book today.
I realize I'm no help LOL I just wanted to say I totally understand!!
I also have a friend that is loving right start.....but I keep thinking about singa's math scores.
We are gonna see how this next book goes.

Re: Singapore Math for child who struggles with abstract

Unread post by cbollin »

1. mental math is more about thinking process in math. and NOT about "ooh.. do it all in your head".
2. it is not expected that a 7 year old is "past" needing concrete. Singapore is "concrete to pictorial to asbtract".

usually when people misunderstand the sequence, they start with abstract too soon because they misunderstand mental math's purpose is to eventually get there.... not at age 7 for all children either.

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Re: Singapore Math for child who struggles with abstract

Unread post by gratitude »

My second child is 7 and like your son likes concrete hands on for math. He is doing book Singapore 1B right now. All of the concrete pictures do help him. Yesterday when it was pictures of money he asked for real coins to lay on top as he figured out the answers. I do tend to use various house hold objects to make it concrete fairly regularly for him; but, the pictures in Singapore seem to really work as well since they are pictured in bundles of 10 and ones pictured by singles. He loves his Singapore book.

The only thing I add to Singapore is Rod and Staff math for drill. Rod and Staff has endless drills. Many other moms use flash cards or the computer for drills. The drills are something Singapore does in the class room, and it is the only thing I have found I have needed to add other than manipulative as needed. There are many ways to add drills. Marie suggests flash cards for it. For us a book has worked well.

Your question though had to do more with the concrete, and I am finding that the pictures in book 1B and the objects we add are satisfying my second sons, age 7, need and want of concrete objects for math. He did MFW1 math last year.