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Successful Strategies For Improving Your Teaching Of Addition Skills

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A lot of students find addition particularly difficult. It is the intention of this article to offer some suggestions to assist parents and teachers provide a good grounding in addition.

Combining groups of objects: for a lot of children, this process is their earliest experience of adding up. This strategy normally involves assembling two sets of objects, and then counting how many objects there are in total. (For example, by putting up the relevant number of digits on each hand.) For many, this method can be challenging, especially for those students who have short attention spans. The time taken to finish the process, and its lack of transferability, mean that if the student does not master the concept quickly, they are unlikely to proceed at all. It is also difficult to transfer this technique into a calculation that can be approached mentally - for example, try to picture two large sets of blocks in your head, and then counting them up.

Simple jottings: Instead of going to all of the bother of gathering a given quantity of objects, placing them in the right place, and then re-counting them, written jottings are much quicker and effective. Write out the sum on a piece of a paper, and beside the first number, jot down the appropriate number of lines - ie. for the number eight, draw eight lines. Ask your student to tell you how many lines they'll have to draw beside the other number in the sum. Tell them to draw the lines when they have given you the correct answer - offering support if necessary. Finally, ask how many lines there are in total. This is a much quicker method of combining 2 sets, and is less likely to be subject to mechanical error. It also instructs the child to make links between why they are drawing a particular quantity of lines, and what the sum actually means.

Counting on: this is a strategy that is related to your student's ability to say number names. Once your child is able to count to 7, practise asking them questions similar to: what number is one more than... For instance, when you are counting, what number comes after 2? This is actually equivalent to solving an addition problem of the type 3+1, but highlights the relationship between the concepts of number and addition, which is very powerful. This strategy helps prepares your child to use number lines, and gives them the confidence to solve problems mentally. This strategy can also be developed, with questions like, "what number is two more than..." When your child knows how to complete such problems orally, present them the written question, and tell them that this is the same as the problem you had been looking at earlier. This will allow the child to see that counting and addition are intrinsically related, and that the "new" problem is an idea they have already encountered.

Board games: this activity can be both pleasant as well as being a useful tool for teaching maths. Games that have a playing piece that is moved around a board, such as Ludo, do a lot to encourage children to count on. If the board has numbers on it, your child is even able to see that the action is the same as counting out numbers aloud or using a number line. When playing board games, remember to highlight the connections between this and adding up.

Handling money: letting children handle money is a nice way of helping the development of valuable addition skills. Start by putting out a small number of pennies and then help the child to count the money, by pressing their finger on every coin one at a time and counting aloud. In the case of pennies, this is simple, because you are only required to count up the number of coins. Now extend the activity by adding two pennies, glued together. Say to the student that when you reach this coin, they are going to count it twice, as it is a "2". Go through the coins as you did earlier, tapping each one as you go, but play act touching the "two" two times. Add yet more 2's, repeatedly tapping each one a relevant number of times. This maths game should help your child add quite long chains of money without using apparatus, improve their confidence when handling money, and let them see the strong relationship between counting and addition.

Adding up worksheets and printables: teachers will tell you that practise makes perfect. The right style of practice also leads to extra confidence. You are able to enormously improve the child's ability with addition, particularly mentally, by using worksheets that have been aimed towards the child's level of ability. Although there are a multitude of internet sites that offer worksheets to assist with the teaching of adding up, remember to choose any maths worksheets you use carefully. Ensure that the worksheets are brief enough to keep the student's focus, and are differentiated at the right level. You should be using a handful of new questions, alongside a larger number of questions that promote their ability to remember number facts. When your student excels, use the opportunity to give them a lot of praise; however, if they need a lot of help, don't give negative feedback, but briefly explain their error. Although they will obviously need to learn from their mistakes, children do best when they feel happy about addition. In short, using calculation worksheets and printables in the right way can really boost your child's ability.

Sarah Currigan is a teacher, and the co-author of, a free website full of printable worksheets, puzzles and activities that can be randomized and differentiated at the touch of a button. Ideal for children at primary or elementary school. Readers may be interested to know that Worksheet Genius contains a section on the subject of maths worksheets and printables.

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Sarah Currigan

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