Focus on Math

Helping children become mathematicians!

Basic Facts: the Last Addition Facts February 25, 2011

In three previous entries I have discussed the learning of basic facts with the visual tool of ten frames. Using such visual tools can help children (especially the ones who are not good “memorizers”) use strategies to get get from things they know to things they don’t know — which in this case are the basic facts.

There are, of course, the +0 facts. For young children it is not trivial — they must make the connection that you can add zero things to other things, but that the number of other things does not change. So although we often generalize that adding numbers together gets a bigger number, this is not the case with adding zero (that generalization fall short elsewhere, too, such as with adding integers — it is, in fact, a false generalization!)

So,we have looked at strategies for +0, +1, +2, +9, +8, +5, =10, doubles, and near doubles, and, amazingly enough, every fact of the 0 to 9 addition grid has now been addressed with the exception of four facts (see inserted grid): 3 + 6; its pair 6 + 3; 7 + 4; and its pair 4 + 7.

Both of these pairs of facts can be tied to strategies that children already know. Each can be tied to an =10 fact: if 6 + 4 = 10, then 6 + 3 must equal only 9 (if adding one less, the answer must be one less). Similarly, if 7 + 3 = 10, then 7 + 4 must equal 11 (if adding one more, the answer must be one more). The 6 + 3 = 9 may also be tied to the visual of three rows of three dots, as is on a domino: two rows of three is 6, another row of three totals nine.

It is important to remember that all facts can be learned with efficient, mental strategies. Counting on fingers or with pencil taps is NOT an efficient strategy or a mental strategy, and we should strongly discourage children from using these methods. Drill of addition facts should only take place once the facts and/or strategies are in place. Drilling does not help a child learn the facts if he does not already know them.

Again, basic facts are truly basic. It is very important for children to learn them, and a strategy approach is useful. Here’s hoping things all “add up” for you and your children!

Mathematically yours,


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