Education bees: I need your help!

posted 3 years ago in Parenting
Post # 3
439 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: February 2017

@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
4961 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

@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 # 6
4072 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: January 2014

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
325 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2015

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.′ defer=’defer

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.


Post # 8
9949 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

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 # 10
9949 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

@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 # 12
579 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: February 2015

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 # 14
9949 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

@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 # 16
757 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

@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!


Good Luck!


(and PS Everyday Math blows the big one!)

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