Post # 1
I am the nanny of a 7 year old girl who is halfway through her 2nd grade year. I am the one who does all of her homework after school, and I have been having some major problems, but her parents really don’t seem to care. I’ve always gotten some great advice here, so I figured I’d give it a shot:
It is now over halfway through her 2nd grade school year, and they just started learning how to subtract. They took the whole beginning of the school year to learn how to do addition because apparently they don’t start teaching them that in 1st grade. I’m in no way a qualified educator, but I’m pretty sure I learned to add and subtract way earlier than 2nd grade, and we were even on to more complicated things. My mom works for our SD, and she said they’re already on fractions and the like in 1st and 2nd grade classrooms. The little girl I’m watching has pretty much mastered addition, but she is really struggling with subtraction. She has a tutor who works with her once a week, but I’m the only other person trying to teach her this for the rest of the time. Her parents really don’t care, and I think part of this is just laziness on her part because she knows her parents won’t punish her. She came home with a math test that she scored 8% on. I really think she has some sort of ADD (will skip around the page doing random problems instead of in order, starts yelling/singing/leaves the table and just generally gets distracted during HW, etc.), but I really don’t know how, as a caretaker, to bring that up with her parents.
Anyway, her major problem is, for example, that she will take 27-19 and say that it equals 12 because 7+2=9 and 2-1=1. No matter how many times I tell her that she has to “take one to give to the seven” she just doesn’t understand, and I feel like I’ve explained it in every different way that I know how to. I’ve even tried explaining that addition is the opposite of subtraction, so she can just add to get the answer if she really needs to.
I’m not in school for elementary education or anything, but I did take a very short intro to elementary math course at school, but we only focused on addition since I didn’t take the second half of the course. There were so many different ways to do addition if a child wasn’t getting it, so, education bees, are there a bunch of different ways that I can do subtraction with her?
Post # 3
@beetee123: I’m currently in a 1st grade classroom, but I homeschooled a 2nd grader a year ago and was in a 2nd grade classroom last semester.
Its great that you’re trying to help with her subraction homework, but using our standard algorithm of “borrowing” (taking 1 to give to the 7) ONLY makes any sense if they have a solid foundation in place value. This is HUGELY important, and with the country’s shift to Common Core, we are steering away with the “standard algorithm” and are not introducing the concept of “borrowing” until much later, once they understand that taking 1 from the 2 is basically taking 10 ones, and they are then giving those 10 ones to the 7 ones to equal 17. Unless they have a solid understanding of place value, they will be confused, frusterated, and will show the lack of interest that you are describing.
Start with maniuplatives; if you have base-ten blocks (or can make your own), I would use those to give her a visual in place value at the same time you’re working on subraction. Put out the 27 (either in objects or in base-ten blocks) and then work on subtracting from there. With your example of 27-19, I would start with items first and have her remove 19 first before doing the base-ten blocks, because then she’ll have a general idea of what the answer is supposed to be. Then, move to the base-ten blocks and have her figure out how she can break up some blocks to take away the right number. After using the manipulatives, then you will move on to other concepts using pen and paper; you can draw out the base-ten blocks (lines equal 10, dots equal 1) and do similar strategies with her this way. ALWAYS say that when you break up a 10 (whether its a line or a base-ten block) you’re doing so because you don’t have enough ones to take away and need to make some more. 1 line (or stick if you’re doing the blocks) equals 10 ones, so you can swap them out.
Start here, but forget the algorithm for now. She needs to understand WHY she’s borrowing before it will make any sense.
[edit:] Also, as she starts to solve the problems, ask her why and how she got the answer she did each time. Explaining her process will help her conceptualize better.
Post # 4
@beetee123: I am not a math teacher but I am a teacher! I agree with the PP – definitely use manipulatives. Start with basic. You have 3, now I take away 2, how many do you have? Hopefully this will help her!
Post # 5
@Meglin: Thank you. I know it’s hard for me to understand as a non-teacher and adult how hard it is for a kid to learn math. At the same time I feel like her teachers aren’t really teaching the foundations either. I’ve looked at the work sheets and tests she’s sent home, and they literally skipped from addition into subtracting two and three digit numbers.
@weatherbug: Thanks, I’m going to give this a try when she gets home on Monday! Just wish she was actually doing things like this in school because she brings home tests where she’s supposed to subtract 2 and 3 digit numbers, but she leaves almost all of the problems blank. I have even tried doing lower numbers with her. Like today I asked her to subtract 8 from 10, and she basically looked at it and automatically said she didn’t know the answer. She also has a tendancy to try to use other problems to aide in figuring out the next problem. For example, if the problem before was 11-7, she will say if 11-7=4 then 10-6 must equal 3!
Sorry for the rant, but it just frustrates me that I’m the one that is on Google and WB trying to figure out how to teach her this rather than her parents. I know it’s just part of being a nanny, but these two would rather pay someone to do all of this than do it themselves, and the 30 mins I do HW with her everyday isn’t enough.
Post # 6
If she gets a big worksheet, cover most of the page or fold it so she can only see one line at a time. Kids get overwhelmed so easily when they see a huge page in front of them (heck, adults do too), so that may help her stay focused. Encourage her to simply finish a line first, then take a stretching break. Then work through the next row, and so on. Break it up!
And I agree with PPs – she needs manipulatives badly. Subtraction can really throw off some kids, so they need visuals in place in order to understand the concept. Don’t do the standard algorithm you grew up with, as Common Core strays from that. It’s much more about looking at the ones and subtracting, then looking at the tens and subtracting, then putting the two together to get the answer (so 46-25, you would say 6-5 is 1, then 40-20 [or 4 tens take away 2 tens] is 20 [or 2 tens], so 1+20 is 21). Granted, this way works only if there is no borrowing. With that, manipulatives are definitely needed.
And don’t be afraid to work on really basic problems and leave the homework aside for a bit. She needs to practice the easier ones before she moves on. If her parents were in the loop about her struggles, I would hope they’d approach the teacher about modifying the homework, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Poor girl.
Post # 7
Does she have a firm grasp on place value? You can use manipulatives or stamps to illustrate what the numbers represent. You can also use household items. Model the problem with objects or blocks of tens, ones, etc.
As for the possible ADD, the symptoms must be present in multiple settings: school, home, and while playing. Does she exhibit other symptoms, such as inturrupting teachers, other students, and other adults; does she often appear not to listen, act without thinking first, loses things all the time, is disorganized, talks excessively, has difficulty playing quietly on her own? These are just some of the potential symptoms. Does she have a medical disorder that could account for some of the symptoms that she is exhibiting?
My advice would be to observe her in as many settings as you can. Record your observations. This can be useful when you are discussing your concerns with her parents. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/adhd_add_parenting_strategies.htm
Post # 8
Is this girl’s teacher doing something wrong? From what you said your mom said, other students are doing fractions…but the kid you nanny is doing double-digit subtraction?
Anyway, my first thought was manipulatives. Math can be very conceptual, and manipulatives help make it more concrete.
Post # 9
@bowsergirl: Her parents are “in the loop” about what is going on. They had conferences last week, and her teacher mentioned that she struggles with subtraction. They said something to me about it, but they really didn’t seem to mind at all. I just remember that my dad would have been pretty mad if we got an 8% on a test, so we learned the stuff out of fear of being grounded! With this situation it’s basically, “oh you got a bad grade okay we will buy you a fancy math app on your iPad.” and then she never uses the app because what kid is going to open a math app when the Barbie app is right next to it?
@nerdybee: You have basically described her to a tee. I honestly feel weird about “butting in” on this type of thing by warning the parents, and I’m hoping that her teacher has said something. I just fear that even if she has said something the parents won’t listen because they don’t want to believe their child has something “wrong” with her. I have looked at her weekly reports, and it frequently mentions that she interrupts the class, has trouble staying quiet and once it even said that she kept getting up in the middle of lessons and doing kartwheels around the room.
@peachacid: Let me clarify that: my mom works in a separate SD where they are already working on fractions and harder topics than what they are apparently teaching at the SD the little girl attends. I’m not even sure what they taught them math wise in 1st grade since she literally just started adding single digits this year.
Post # 10
@beetee123: Is this Everyday Math, by any chance? It could be an issue due to implementation. I know my district has been introducing it year-by-year to different grades, so there is a lot of disconnect between what kids learn from one year to the next. It’ll work out eventually (as far as Everyday Math will work out eventually), but I know it’s frustrating.
How is her reading?
Post # 11
@peachacid: I’m actually unfamiliar with Everyday Math, but I’m sure it could be some kind of new thing they’re implementing. I know this is the district wide curriculum as she brought home a paper in the beginning of the year stating that they would be starting with addition in second grade and working up to subtraction by mid-year.
Her reading is pretty so-so. She was having a ton of trouble until recently, and she does still struggle a bit with some simpler things. Up until this week she wasn’t reading anything more than what I would consider baby books (like books that her two year old sister has read to her at bedtime). I knew it was kind of a comfort thing, but I asked her earlier this week to start a chapter book. She finally pulled one out today, and read pretty well from it. She does get distracted during the 20 mins she is required to read during the day, but it is not as bad as when she’s doing math. It doesn’t help that her parents have been home for the past couple of days during HW time, so they will stop her to ask her questions, or she will stop to talk to them about something.
Post # 12
As a third grade teacher, I definitely agree w/ the PP about supporting her understanding of place value. It will be important for her to understand composing and decomposing numbers in order to understand the process of subtraction. CC doesn’t have the standard algortihm (borrowing and carrying) in the standards until 4th grade! In third grade, we use manipulatives and other strategies such as adding/subtracting by place value, open number lines, and rounding to give students a wide bank of strategies to pull from.
Breaking up her homework into smaller chunks of time (5 minutes and then taking a break) and having cues to let her know when a break is starting and ending may help with some of the distractability she has during homework. If she’s doing cartwheels in class and interrupting, that’s definitely a sign that somethings going on. It could be her reacting to not knowing what’s being taught and not knowing how to reach out for help in a productive way, it could be an avoidance tactic, or it could be some attention issues. Her teacher needs to reach out to her parents if this is ongoing behavior.
Post # 13
@ohmariemarie: I think her not understanding the material is a huge part of her behavioral issues, and I’m sure it also has to do with attention. It’s a very sad situation when her parents basically hire people to give their children attention, to pay attention to their grades, etc, but not much I can do about that. I am just worried that I am the one that needs to teach her these things, or else she will forever be behind. I know that the students who didn’t learn the basics in the first few years of school always seemed to be behind later in life even with extra help. I also don’t think it helps that there is no accountability here. She honestly has no reason to learn any of this stuff since her parents don’t really say anything about grades (good or bad), so I feel like she doesn’t know why she needs to know these things. Even when we can successfully figure out simpler problems together she doesn’t retain the info at all. Sorry for rambling, but it’s just such a sad situation for me. I know that some kids have trouble that they can’t help at all, but in general I feel like addition and subtraction is something that a lot of kids can grasp pretty well. She is bright in so many ways, and I know she can do it!
Post # 14
@beetee123: Books meant to read aloud to children are often WAY above their reading level, so don’t worry if it’s a “baby book”. If she needs help or stumbles on more than five words per page in a book, it’s too hard — she can read it with you, but she won’t feel successful reading it without help.
I think you’d see “Everyday Math” on the worksheets and stuff, and she’d have a workbook, if that were the curriculum, but maybe not. Do you have access to manipulatives?
Post # 15
@peachacid: The books that she sometimes chooses to read are the ones that are like, “Yellow Duck. Turn the page, Pink Panda.” I just know that she is capable of more than that, and she actually did really well today with the chapter book she chose. She stumbled on a few of the bigger words, but no more than 2-3 per page.
I’ve never seen Everyday Math on any of her worksheets, although to be honest she really doesn’t ever bring worksheets home. Her assignment for each night is to do 15 minutes of +/- facts along with 20 mins of reading. Occasionally she will bring a WS home, but that is usually for something like telling time. She doesn’t have a workbook from school, but her mom told me she will purchase one if need be. I don’t think we have any manipulatives. I remember using like little fun elephants or something in elementary school. Could I use something like bingo chips? If I need something specific I’m sure her parents would buy it for her to use.
Post # 16
@beetee123: holy. crap.
I taught 2nd for three years…. at this point in the year we were doing the very beginnings of multiplication….and yes, fractions… in an inner-city NYC school.
When I have a student that’s struggling with subtraction with borrowing, I like to use base-ten blocks. (Kids usually call these “longs” and “cubes”)
First, I have them “stack” the numbers. So lets say it’s written as 27-19, they write the 27 on top, then the 19 on bottom. Then, next to the 27, they “Draw it”. They draw the base-ten blocks that represent the number. In this case, two longs, and seven cubes. Then, I have them literally erase the second number. So, with 19 it would look like this:
-19 has one long, so I can erase one long!
-19 has 9 cubes, but 27 only has 7. I need to erase two more cubes, where could they come from? (the leftover long)
-break down the long (which is just 10 cubes stuck together) and remove the 2 cubes. Then she counts whats left and she has her answer.
Kids also do a lot better when they can apply it to real life. So, put it into context. You can say- “alright, lets say that I have 27 cookies, and I gave you 19. How many do I have left?” They can understand that real-world scenario much better than a random pairing of numbers.
If you have unifix cubes lying around, they can be very helpful with this!
(and PS Everyday Math blows the big one!)